'Power to Choose' website now gives you options to weed out tricky 'tiered plans'

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - Choosing an electricity company can be confusing, and the state's electricity shopping site, Power to Choose, has been criticized for making the process more perplexing.

However, recent changes to the site can help you weed out the bad power plans and companies from your search.

In the past, you could log on to the Power to Choose website and find 20 or more electricity plans from one company with different rates. Texas' Public Utility Commission finally said if it can't make choosing an electric company easier for consumers, the website should be shut down.

Now, when you type in your ZIP code on Power to Choose, you will only find five plans from each retail electric provider.

The biggest change is that you can filter out the trickiest, most confusing rate plans called "tiered plans." That is when an electric company charges you a fee if you use too little electricity or they give you a credit if you use over a certain amount. These plans nearly always work in the electric company's favor and leave you with a higher than necessary monthly bill.

If you don't even want to see these "tiered plans" then look on the left-hand side of the website under "Pricing and billing," click "Plans without a minimum usage fee/credit and plans without tiered pricing." What you are left with are plans with easy to understand rates that give you a better idea of what you'll pay each month.

The PUC wants to make more changes that will take longer to implement. The chairman said that if the changes don't help, and companies are still able to game the site, deceiving consumers into thinking their plans offer the lowest prices, then the comission may just shut down the website.

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