N.J. stands up for consumers with suit against energy suppliers

New Jersey is charging three third-party energy suppliers with engaging in false and deceptive marketing practices.

The companies made aggressive door-to-door and telemarketing calls, promising consumers they would save money by switching their electric or natural gas suppliers, said acting Attorney General John Hoffman.

“In reality, rather than realizing these savings, we allege that consumers saw their energy bills skyrocket during this past winter when Palmco, HIKO, and Systrum charged far more per unit of energy than their customers’ previous suppliers,” Hoffman said Wednesday during a news conference.

The lawsuit seeks restitution for customers who were defrauded as well as civil penalties.

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There are more than a hundred third-party energy suppliers.

New Jersey Consumer Affairs Director Steve Lee advised consumers considering switching their provider to get contract terms in writing and review their bill every month to know how much they’re being charged.

And Board of Public Utilities President Dianne Solomon, who said the energy suppliers have to certify that they comply with state and federal do-not-call lists, said anyone who gets a sales pitch call should press for information.

“I would ask for the name of the company, any contact information, a phone number to call back on,” she said. “Generally, we found that they do supply that information when requested and that should be enough for us to follow up.”

There is a robust market of alternative energy suppliers that can offer savings on electric and gas bills, Solomon said, and officials will make efforts to ensure they don’t violate the provisions of the do-not-call law.

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