Q&A about choosing a service provider

Other than price, what factors should I consider?
You should consider price, but many other factors may influence your decision. In some states, marketers have promoted specific benefits. Some examples include price stability, better service, and “green power” – or environmentally friendly services. Some providers will focus on name recognition, emphasizing that they are an affiliate of a utility company. You may choose to stay with your current utility, which may emphasize reliability, familiarity and stability as its strengths.

How can I get the best deal?
Large customers (businesses) will be able to negotiate special terms and conditions that suit their energy needs.

Individual customers may have several service options offered by a given supplier and may have several suppliers from which to choose, each offering a set price. You will need to shop and compare.

Residential and small business customers may be able to join together through an aggregator, who will negotiate the best price on behalf of the entire group.

Once you’ve weighed all your options and compared prices and services, you may opt to try a new supplier or choose to continue to get your service from the local distribution company.

Will the lights always come on, and will the pilot light burn even on the coldest day of the year?
Be assured that state and federal government agencies will continue to insist on system reliability. Federal policies ensure that electricity will be available on a nationwide transmission system and natural gas will continue to flow through interstate pipelines. State policies ensure that reliability remains high for the company that delivers energy to you over electric wires or through local gas pipelines.

What should I know and do before choosing a service provider?
First, make sure the provider is on state-approved list or has been certified or licensed by the state. And always read informational materials about the supplier.

Before choosing a competitive service provider, you may want to ask:

  • What are the terms of the offer?
    • If the price is fixed, for what period of time is that price guaranteed?
    • If the price is variable, how often does it change – seasonally, monthly, by day of the week, or time of day?
    • Whether variable or fixed for a specific period of time, is there a maximum percentage that the rate can be increased?
  • Are there restrictions on how much electricity or natural gas can be used or when it can be used?
  • Is there a contract or other written agreement?
    • What is the time period during which the agreement remains in effect?
    • Does it automatically renew?
    • Will I have an opportunity to review the renewal agreement before making a decision?
    • If I choose to change suppliers, how long do I have to cancel if I change my mind?
    • Is there a cancellation fee – either during or after the initial cancellation period?
  • What is the source of the electricity or natural gas?
    • Where does the supply come from?
    • How can I be sure it gets to me?
    • For electricity, what is the fuel or energy source, and what is its environmental impact?
  • How will I be billed?
    • When will the first bill arrive?
    • How many bills will I receive each month and from whom?
    • How quickly is payment due?
    • Can payment be made by cash, check, electronic funds transfer or credit card?
    • What if I can only pay part of the bill?
    • Is there a late payment fee?
    • Is there a budget plan?
  • How is customer service handled?
    • Is there a local business office?
    • Whom do I call if there is a service interruption or a billing dispute?
    • Is this call free?
    • Can I call anytime, day or night? If not, what are the hours during which I can call?
    • Will personal information (name, address, phone number) be released or sold to a third party?

Questions to ask your local distribution company:

  • How will switching to a new energy supplier affect my participation in any special programs offered by my local distribution company? For example: budget billing, energy efficiency or outdoor lighting.
  • After having switched to a new supplier, if I decide to return to the local distribution company, how long must I wait before I can switch to another supplier?
  • How was my price to compare determined?

For additional information, please call Virginia Energy Choice toll-free at 1-877-YES2004, e-mail Virginia Energy Choice, or write Virginia Energy Choice c/o State Corporation Commission, P.O. Box 1197, Richmond, Virginia 23218.