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Texas Customer Alleges Latest "Ploy" By Retail Electric Provider To Make Rates Appear More Favorable In Power To Choose Listings

January 14, 2022

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Copyright 2010-21
Reporting by Paul Ring •

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A Texas customer filed comments with the Texas PUC concerned about a "ploy" by an unnamed retail electric provider for its rates to appear more favorable on the Power to Choose website, but the cited situation is already addressed by PUC rules, and the customer may have encountered a potential instance of non-compliance

The customer alleged, "The REP I just signed up with indicated 10.9c/kWh in that column [the Price/kWh column on Power to Choose], but when looking at the EFL, it was actually 10.94c/kWh. So... because the price was 10.94c and not 10.95c, it rounded DOWN on the PTC website to make it look like 10.9c, instead of rounding UP which would have made it look like 11.0c. This is the latest ploy by REPs to make their rate LOOK better than it actually is."

However, the substantive rules require that the average rate on the EFL (as well as on the customer's bill) shall be, "rounded to the nearest one-tenth of one cent."

That being said, so long as the rounding is accurate, expressing the rate to a further decimal point on the EFL actually provides more information to customers about the actual rate they would pay at a usage level (though such a listing may not be in compliance and also may be confusing to the customer when all other rates are expressed to a tenth of a cent).

That's because, outside of certain products which have only purely volumetric rates with no time variance, the EFL rates are an average, and thus the REP is not calculating the customer's bill by applying the average rate to all kWh consumed. Thus, the customer's concern that they would be paying an additional .04 cents per kWh with the cited product, versus a "pure" 10.9 cent product, is misplaced, especially as other products listed as 10.9 cents likely reflect rounding to comply with the tenth of a cent disclosure rule.

However, the customer does raise a valid issue if the EFL rates are not being accurately rounded.

The customer did not cite a REP by name, and the example cited by the customer reflected appropriate rounding

However, a review of the Power to Choose site on the morning of January 14, in the Oncor service area, did indicate at least one REP whose EFL had listed average rates to 2 decimal places, while the rate had appeared listed to only 1 decimal place in the Power to Choose search results

Further, as of a search on the morning of January 14, at least one product for this REP had an EFL average rate whose second decimal place exceeded 5, but for which the rate as listed in the Power to Choose search results had been rounded down, rather than up

The substantive rules do not explicitly mention rounding up versus down, other than requiring rounding to be to the, "nearest one-tenth of one cent."

Specifically, as of a search on the morning of January 14, True Power had been listing in the Oncor area a plan called True Value 36 whose EFL had listed an all-in average rate, at 1,000 kWh, of 10.97 cents per kWh. However, the Power to Choose results had listed this plan's rate rounded down to 10.9 cents. True Power has since updated the EFL to be 1 decimal place

True Power provided the following statement concerning the matter:

"True Power is appreciative of the Power to Choose website where customers can shop for their electricity provider among many REPs through out the state of Texas. We want to ensure customers that they are being billed in accordance with the EFL. The energy charge as well as the utility transmission and distribution rates are correctly stated with two decimal places. The rounding on the PTC EFL's average rate has already been updated to one decimal place and is now consistent with both our website and other channels."

--- Statement from True Power

It wasn't clear if the prior rounding for the search results was inputted by True Power, or if the company had inputted a rate of 10.97 cents per kWh as listed on its EFL, and the rounding had been done automatically by the mechanics of the Power to Choose site

Given the volume of plans in the market, cannot definitively state whether there are any other REPs which may be listing rates in their EFLs to two decimals places. EnergyChoiceMatters accessed EFLs on the PTC site for over two dozen plans from over a dozen different REPs and did not encounter any other EFLs which listed the average rates to two decimal places

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