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.

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