Power To Choose To Become More Consumer Oriented?

Posted on Posted in Consumer Advocacy, PUC/ERCOT, Texas Electricity, Texas Electricity News

Recently it was announced that Power To Choose will be launching a new website on May 6th, with the hope that the new site will be “more focused on the shopping experience.”  Also, notable is that shoppers will now be able to rate retail electricity providers. Hmm. That sounds familiar. I think there’s another Texas electricity website other than PowerToChoose.org that has been allowing consumers to rate providers for years now…

Here are some details:

Specifically, the ratings component will allow customers to rate a REP on price, billing & payment, customer service, and communications, on a numeric scale with a rating of 5 being the best.

Visitors will need to register to rate a REP; however, registration only requires an email address. There will be a limit on how often a registered user may submit a rating, but it was not clear if different usernames from the same IP address could evade this procedure.

At this time, visitors will only have the option to submit a numeric rating; the site will not initially accept customer comments regarding REPs

Well, this is certainly a divergence from what are commonly considered to be the best practices for running a successful site in the Web 2.0 landscape. But I’m sure they’ll have plenty of success soliciting customer feedback when they’re requiring a registration process. And hopefully they will address IP issue for multiple reviews. Because I can speak from extensive experience that many providers and their agents will try to actively submit false reviews in efforts to make their employers look good, and the competition look terrible. But given the PUC’s track record on keeping their scorecard updated, I’m not confident about their diligence in monitoring submitted reviews.

Anything else interesting in the new changes? Absolutely:

In addition to the organic ratings, the PUC is examining including the JD Power Texas REP satisfaction rankings on Power to Choose as well. The Commission is still in negotiations with JD Power regarding such listings.

With the new ratings listed on Power to Choose, the current complaint information will be moved onto the main PUCT site.

So the PUC is going to include the JD Power rating information? That’s fine, JD Power is an excellent resource and I’ve used them as part of my ratings formula since I first started Texas Electricity Ratings. I suppose the PUC is finally acknowledging their own futility and lack of experience and attention to a rankings system and now they’re getting out of the way.

Unfortunately, I think buying their scorecard is a mistake. The information used to make up their complaint scorecard, namely customer counts and formal complaints, is information that is only available to the PUC. There’s no way I (or anyone else) can look up customer counts, or have immediate information on new REPs in the marketplace. Personally, if I were the PUC I’d be spending the time and resources in making sure their complaint scorecard is as up to date, all encompassing, and as visible as possible for all Texans shopping for electricity. I believe that would be in the best interest of consumers, not some tweaks to a shopping website.

10 thoughts on “Power To Choose To Become More Consumer Oriented?

  1. There won’t be comments, merely the ratings. There is not going to be any moderation, but I’m told there will be IP tracking to reduce fraudulent ratings. I have little faith in the rating system providing any additional value and am concerned that this does more damage to REPs that become victim of a smear campaign or that REPs will be manipulating (indirectly, I’m sure) their reviews. I suspect (and hope) that this effort is short lived. Personally, think the complaint score card is relevant. It may have it’s faults, but it’s ultimately data driven. The biggest problem is that to the lay consumer, it’s not intuitive enough.

    1. I agree with most of your points, Everard. I certainly agree with you that there is a place for a scorecard…I just question how effective it is in the current form. As you said, it’s not intuitive. And as I’ve said several times, it’s not helpful when they update it seemingly once a quarter. The PUC should be working to get the scorecard right…but if they’re not, then they might as well just abandon it and bury as it seems they’re currently doing.

  2. I think the JD Powers is a non starter. I don’t think JD Powers wants that information out there without ability for them to control (and monetize) the findings. I read between the lines and believe despite the best intention, the JD Powers info won’t work.

  3. Why no listing for Ambit? I read the low ratings of some your top 10 and had to ask. Ambit Energy has an A+ BBB rating. Plus Ambit offers “Free Electricity” if you get 15 of your friends and family to give them a try. There are some minor details to it…
    http://txelectric.myambit.com/rates-and-plans/ambit-advantages/free-energy
    I know of several people who are getting free or practically free electricity for their TX homes that are 2,000+ sq. ft.

    I realize it’s multi-level marketing. Rather than pay for billboards and TV ads, they pay the folks who recommend them. But should that disqualify them from your great educational service?

    1. Rick,

      I don’t disqualify Ambit. They have a rating, just like everyone else. However, theirs is just lower than most and well out of the top 10. Customers can still research Ambit’s reviews. It just so happens that while everyone has bad reviews, Ambit has more than most.

      1. ha, ha. Bet the REPs complained that it would cost them business so the PUC took orders and killed it. Always watching out for the customer!

        1. That’s not what happened, per my understanding. As I heard it, they were technologically not capable of ensuring/verifying that people who left reviews were actual customers of that company. Apparently they didn’t have the staff or trust their ability to apply common sense to review submissions, so they tabled the concept.

          I assure you, most providers want Power To Choose to be a viable shopping option. Unfortunately, it just isn’t, really.

          1. I’m sure the REPs would like Power To Choose to be a good shopping on option — but on their terms. They don’t want too much disclosure.

            The PUC wants a laissez faire electricity market where basically anything goes and the consumer just has to take their hit. But they don’t want that sort of thing for the REPs.

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