NOTE: See below for detail on how Reliant Energy was indicted on April 8, 2004 for wire fraud and conspiracy charges for price manipulation in California during their energy crisis in June 2000.
Now for my story. Recently I was handed a $230 electric bill for a 2-bedroom apartment. I don't even use that much electricity! We keep our heat at 68 and our AC at 80. We have mostly all energy-saving low-wattage light bulbs. We don't run our oven. Our water heater is set very low. We've done everything under the moon to lower our bill. So I was SHOCKED to receive this huge bill from Reliant, who PROMISED lower bills than the competition.
When I called to contest this high bill, the customer service lady threatened me, saying, "Well sir, then we'll turn your electricity off for non-payment." Great customer service. So basically we were stuck paying this huge bill. However, I immediately switched back to the incumbent utility.
Reliant promises lower rates, but it's a lie and a trap. They lure customers in with rebates and free cash. I got in on the $50 deal - if you switch to Reliant, you get $50. Problem is, you lose that and then some because they bilk you for far more than the $50 you supposedly "gained" by switching to Reliant.
The customer service lady I was talking to (one of the many I spoke with - I had to call several times because the wait times were excruciating) on the phone swore up and down emphatically that they NEVER raise rates because they'd have to go through a rigorous approval process. I looked at my Reliant bills, and the line item called "Fuel Factor for Generation" had gone UP from .045714 KWH to .051130 KWH from February to March of this year. This item shows your total energy consumption and the per-killowatt hour fee your electric utility is charging you. In other words, Reliant raised my rates.
I told the lady this - that it's not true Reliant never raises rates - because the proof is right here in my hands. The lady hesitated and responded, "Sir, well, the rates go up depending on the season. Now I'm not sure, maybe I got my seasons wrong." Yeah right.
I've heard other horror stories about Reliant. I just heard yesterday that Reliant charged someone else a $5000 residential electric bill. Obviously this was a mistake - $5000 is more like a commercial bill than a residential one. This person had a very hard time with Reliant's customer service department, who didn't want to hear it. Also, they tried to charge this person for coming out to read their meter!
Lastly, Reliant's marketing methods are in very poor taste. The other day, we had a knock on the door and some guy says, "We'd like to talk to you about your electric bill." My wife was alone in the apartment. She didn't answer the door, because news alerts have stated many times (it's a fact) that robbers will pose as utility workers in order to gain entrance into your home and harm you. Besides, if your electric utility company has a problem with your bill, they will CALL you. Anyhow, we saw a guy walking in the stairwell with a clipboard, and I asked him, "Are you from Reliant?" He says yes - big surprise. He then asked me if I'd like to save on my bills, and I laughed and told him I'm already with Reliant. These aggressive, suspicious marketing tactics make Reliant out to be fools.
Reliant has slick advertising and tempting offers including cash bonuses for signing up, but DON'T FALL FOR IT! You will LOSE lots of money in the long run (and short run as well).
Is it any wonder then that Reliant Energy was indicted on April 8, 2004 for wire fraud and conspiracy charges for price manipulation in California during their energy crisis in June 2000? Read below:
From a web site:
Reliant Resources Asserts Subsidiary Violated No Laws, Plans Vigorous Defense
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 8, 2004
Houston Reliant Resources was notified today that a federal grand jury in San Francisco, California has returned an indictment against one of its subsidiaries as well as two former and two current employees on charges related to an alleged violation of the Commodity Exchange Act and related wire fraud and conspiracy charges. The company announced that this action was expected in a press release on March 8.
The indictment is based on allegations that the subsidiary, Reliant Energy Services, Inc. engaged in price manipulation by curtailing Reliant's electricity generation in California on two days in June 2000. Reliant Energy Services is the subsidiary of Reliant Resources responsible for purchasing fuel for and marketing the power produced by its generation facilities.
We believe the actions that are the subject of the indictment were not in violation of laws, tariffs or regulations in effect at the time, said Reliant Resources General Counsel Mike Jines. During the week in question, electricity was plentiful in California, there was no supply shortage, no ISO-declared emergency and no blackouts, and prices were relatively low. There is absolutely no basis to contend that this conduct contributed to the energy shortage that occurred in California later that year. We intend to contest these charges vigorously.
Moreover, any suggestion that Reliant did not fully cooperate with the Department of Justice investigation is inaccurate and unfair. The company voluntarily disclosed the conduct, agreed to a settlement with the FERC, assisted in making evidence available to the CFTC and Department of Justice, and made a series of presentations to the Department of Justice concerning the facts and the law. What Reliant did not do was agree that the conduct constitutes a criminal offense, Jines said.
We don't believe that this action will have any material impact on our ongoing business operations, including any impact on credit or debt agreements; the wholesale license held by Reliant Energy Services; the retail and wholesale licenses held by other subsidiaries; or contracts and agreements to which Reliant Energy Services is a party, Jines said.
In January 2003, Reliant entered into a settlement agreement with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regarding the same actions that are the subject of the indictment. In the settlement, Reliant neither admitted, nor denied, that these actions affected prices in any market, or violated any law, tariff or regulation.
Reliant Resources, Inc., (NYSE: RRI) based in Houston, Texas, provides electricity and energy services to retail and wholesale customers in the U.S., marketing those services under the Reliant Energy brand name. The company provides a complete suite of energy products and services to more than 1.8 million electricity customers in Texas ranging from residences and small businesses to large commercial, industrial and institutional customers. Reliant also serves large commercial and industrial clients in the PJM (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland) Interconnection. The company has approximately 20,000 megawatts of power generation capacity in operation, under construction or under contract.
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