Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Beware of Silicon Valley Clean Energy and energy slamming

Posted in botch, business, california by commorancy on September 19, 2017

If you live in California, you need to read this. This situation has scam written ALL OVER IT. Let’s explore.

State / City Mandated ‘Clean Energy’

Apparently, as a result of city voting, some cities (such as Cupertino) have decided to force residents in that city to change their power generation provider to a third party instead of PG&E. In my case, it ends up being the scam outfit Silicon Valley Clean Energy. Why are they a scam? Here’s what happened.

First, they enrolled my electrical generation service under SVCE’s generation service without my permission. Then, SVCE waited over 60 days to notify me of my enrollment into their power generation service. Because they offered opting out at less than 60 days for free, this means I am not only being assessed a $5 exit fee from SVCE and I am now being put under PG&E’s transitional rates (which are likely to be higher than normal PG&E for at least 6 months). Oh, it gets even better.

Second, because I was force exited from PG&E’s generation services, PG&E gets to assess a Power charge indifference adjustment (PCIA) charge (effectively it is an exit charge for leaving PG&E’s power generation services). This charge on my last bill was $25.60. If you add this charge together with SVCE’s power generation charges, the total generation fee becomes identical to PG&E’s generation charges. If you spread this fee out over 12 months, SVCE’s charges aren’t as low as they seem. Also, this PCIA seems to be assessed once a year (or as frequently as the CPUC allows PG&E to assess it). Basically, this is a charge that PG&E gets to assess to cover generation fees they lost because you moved to a competitor. And, they get to do it each year.

Third, SVCE’s crap web site would not accept my opt-out request. Their opt-out form is entirely broken. I ended up calling their phone and opt-ing out there. Unfortunately, I have no idea if they really got my opt-out request because this fly-by-night outfit only has 9-5 call-center business hours. So, I have to wait until the following day and contact them.

Fourth, I was only notified of my ‘enrollment’ in this service because of a cheap card sent to me in the mail over 60 days after my enrollment.

Fifth, they make a lot of bold claims about using wind and solar energy for generation, but do not back up those claims anywhere. They could simply be buying PG&E generated power and reselling it.

Charges and electric slamming

Not only does PG&E get to assess random charges as a result of the customer now using a third party power generation company, the power generation company gets to assess random exit charges for leaving their service when I never voluntarily joined it in the first place.

This entire situation smells of CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT. So far, I will have been assessed around $35 in fees plus an unknown amount for rates (up to 6 months) simply because SVCE grabbed my service without notifying me timely. This is the exact thing that long distance phone companies were doing in the 90’s. It is called slamming. This scam type is just another form of state / city endorsed slamming, now with the electric service.

The Feds need to jump on board and stop this slamming activity quick and force the same payback charges on the company who slammed the customer. Here’s what long distance providers were forced to do if they slammed someone onto their service and the end user paid the bill:

If you have been slammed, but discover it after you HAVE paid the bill of the slamming company, the slamming company must pay your authorized company 150 percent of the charges you paid the slamming company. Out of this amount, your authorized company will reimburse you 50 percent of the charges you paid the slamming company. Or, you can ask your authorized company to recalculate and resend your bill using its rates instead of the slamming company’s rates.

Electric generation companies need to be held accountable for slamming in the same way as long distance providers. Companies like SVCE riding on the coattails of city votes shouldn’t get a pass to switch services without permission. Slamming is slamming whether it’s for telephone service or power generation. No matter what it is, it’s a rip off unless the change is by consumer permission. If there are fees involved, the customer MUST authorize the change in advance. Otherwise, it is slamming.

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21 Responses

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  1. Joanne said, on August 30, 2018 at 8:38 pm

    This happened to me to. SVC took my information from PG&E and started charging me without my permission. We need to start a class action law suit. Let’s stop them from doing this.

    Like

    • commorancy said, on August 30, 2018 at 8:57 pm

      Hi Joanne,

      Thanks for your comment. AFAIK, no individual notifications were made in advance of the switch. SVCE worked the switch entirely with PG&E, at the approval of the city where each electric customer lives. The difficulty I have with this situation is not that I was switched, it’s that I was switched without notice and without my permission. If they had simply asked me if I wanted to switch, I could have said yes or no. Given a choice, I could have done research on SVCE prior to switching and made an informed decision whether SVCE was a worthwhile company and would offer me enough savings to justify the switch. Additionally, lack of response to a permission request should have defaulted to being an opt-out, not an opt-in.

      That SVCE chose to blindly switch everyone without asking permission seems highly illegal and is definitely unethical. Any business willing to operate in such an unethical manner doesn’t deserve my business. Long distance providers got into a lot of legal trouble pulling this same shenanigan in the 80s and 90s. I fail to see why SVCE should get a pass for doing exactly the same thing with electrical power generation services. Yes, I agree this situation deserves a class action lawsuit. The difficulty is in finding a willing lawyer to set this up.

      If you have any experience with setting up a class action lawsuit of this type, please let me know.

      Thanks.

      Like

    • Steve said, on October 8, 2018 at 11:29 am

      This happened to me and after opting out, I’m dealing with TBCC a.k.a. Transitional Bundled Customer Costs, which is just a way to say 6 months of bigger bills.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rachel said, on July 28, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    I’m in Mountain View and also missed the window last year to opt out. However, my bills don’t seem any lower with SVCE and, if anything, a bit higher. Plus, the folks at PG&E tell me I’m no longer eligible to receive peak pricing alerts and other tools that help me control my energy usage and costs. My question: Do you think it’s worth it to bite the bullet, pull the plug on SVCE and go back to PG&E, even if that means exit fees and transitional rates? I don’t want to keep paying fees to switch back and forth, but I also am hesitant to stay with SCVE if there is little to no benefit to me.

    Like

    • commorancy said, on July 28, 2018 at 8:22 pm

      Hi Rachel and thanks for the comment.

      While I can’t advise you on how it may affect your bills in the future or whether to switch back, I personally don’t trust SVCE at all. If they can pull this kind of unethical and unsavory crap just to get customers, they can pull all sorts of other crap later against its customers. Because SVCE has entirely lost my trust as a power generation provider, I bit the bullet and switched back. At least with PGE, they’re a known quantity. With SVCE, I’ve no idea what they are capable of pulling in the future.

      It’s really up to you. But personally, I follow the motto, “Once Bitten, Twice Shy”. SVCE has bitten me once already with their unannounced switching tactic, I’m definitely shy about what else they might pull. I simply won’t do business with such a schlocky and scammy outfit.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rachel said, on July 28, 2018 at 8:43 pm

        Thanks for the quick response. I’ve scoured the internet and can’t seem to find anybody else talking about the hidden fees and consequences (or even commenting positively about the switch to SCVE). It’s kind of a black hole of info. Appreciate that you’ve picked apart the bills and can help me make sense of it all! I’m with you—go with the devil you know.

        Liked by 1 person

        • commorancy said, on July 28, 2018 at 10:05 pm

          Hi Rachel,

          Yep, I agree with you. It seems that there have been a few people who’ve commented on this article and who seem to imply they’ve had a positive experience with SVCE. I didn’t stay long enough with SVCE to have that experience. Though, I wouldn’t exactly consider moving my energy generation provider without my permission to be a positive experience. Of those positive commenters on here, I will say that I do not know for whom those commenters work. I can definitively state that I do not now nor have I ever worked for SVCE or PGE.

          Like

  3. RICHIE said, on June 23, 2018 at 8:13 am

    Ok so when you opted out you had to pay some additional costs which is not good. However, besides that, everything else you say are just words, not facts. The fact is I did the math: Even with PG&E added charges, total utility charges with SVCE are less, and you can even see on your own bill as they show the break out for everything. As for what the future holds, there is no indication those rates will rise. So I think you’re getting over dramatic for nothing, you should have just not opted out. SVCE customers do NOT have higher total utility bills at this present time. Do the math yourself.

    Like

    • commorancy said, on June 23, 2018 at 3:21 pm

      1. PG&E was never given the opportunity to offer competitive pricing.

      2. Additional exit costs are assessed not once, but yearly by PGE.

      3. If you’re only looking at your generation costs, you’re not taking into account your entire bill. Remember, PGE is still the billing entity and you’re paying PGE to bill for SVCE as third party.

      4. People were switched without consent and with fees if you choose to move back. This is slamming. I’m guessing you may be an SVCE employee and don’t understand what’s wrong with this.

      5. It’s guaranteed SVCE’s rates will increase. How much and when is a matter of debate. My guess is 18 months to 2 years. You’re terribly naive if you think their rates won’t increase.

      Like

  4. jay1934 said, on May 23, 2018 at 10:29 am

    Is it a scam by PG&E?

    Like

    • commorancy said, on May 23, 2018 at 10:35 am

      Your guess is as good as mine. There’s no way to know. However, since PG&E is refusing to allow the choice between PG&E and SVCE power generation on new account setup and is forcing SVCE before opting out, this definitely sounds fishy. If there are multiple power generation providers, the consumer should always have the choice which one they would like to use. When you’re forced onto a specific service (particularly one that requires you to opt out and pay extra money to switch back), there’s a problem.

      Like

  5. Mi33 said, on May 14, 2018 at 4:12 pm

    I am just setting up a new PG&E account that will start next month. I was told that the account location would be automatically served by a 3rd party provider SVCE. AND, even when I asked to stay/use PG&E first, the PG&E representative told me I cannot. I have to call SVCE to opt out!
    This is really a shocking info.
    I can’t have right to choose my own provider?!

    I had a short learning about similar things in choose your own”retail GAS energy provider” 3 years ago.
    I loved that idea open market of better energy, and better price for community so I also promoted to my family and friends. After few months, I found the statistic number is kind of tricky as those market research…
    (1) the deliver company is still PG&E. PG&E bought from whole sale companies as well and PG&E cannot generate profit from re-sell by regulation. That is, PG&E has no much loss in this deal. PG&E can raise their maintain and repair or insurance charge tho by saying they may have higher risk for uncertain input.

    (2) cheaper?
    ==> It may be sometimes, depending on the data or which time frame you calculate and compare. There are so many tricky way to show you those statistics on advertisements. That is why on advertisements everyone claims they are number 1.

    At least customers were able to decide by their own at that time for gas energy tho.

    Like

    • commorancy said, on May 23, 2018 at 10:39 am

      With every comment, this is sounding more and more like collusion between PG&E and SVCE to bilk electric consumers out of their money. I’m waiting for a lawyer to step up into this situation. It’s ripe for the picking.

      Like

  6. Samuel Lee said, on February 23, 2018 at 3:58 pm

    Were you able to unsubscribe from SVCE Generation? How has your bill changed? The advertisement indicated that they are generating at 1% less than PG&E.

    Liked by 1 person

    • commorancy said, on February 23, 2018 at 4:19 pm

      Hi Samuel,

      Thanks for your questions. See, that’s the thing. When using alternative generation providers, PG&E gets to charge an extra yearly service charge that can significantly reduce or eliminate any savings you might see by SVCE (or any other power generation service).

      SVCE promised savings without backing up those savings claims or their ‘clean energy’ generation claims. Cupertino bought into that line without any research. Worse, Cupertino and PG&E allowed SVCE to switch consumers without prior notification and without consent. I was only notified by SVCE of the switch after the date I could opt-out, effectively forfeiting my ability to opt out. The only way you would have noticed the switch is if you closely audit your monthly bills every month. Because I’m using eBills with my bank, I don’t see the bills. I have to go log into PG&E and download the bills manually.

      The only thing that changes on your bill is the power generation line item. The problem is, the rest of the bill still comes from PG&E. And, because PG&E is still handling distribution, metering and billing… any savings you might think you’re getting can easily be wiped out by PG&E’s extra charges. In other words, PG&E is regulatorily authorized to collect extra service charges to make up for lost revenue when the power generation is provided by a third party company. Worse, that other company may not even be regulated in the way PG&E is. So, they can rope you in with ‘savings’ diatribe and then raise your rates above what PG&E charges.

      Then to make matters even worse, you’re socked with fees from both SVCE and PG&E to switch your service back to PG&E. It’s a scam all around. PG&E stands to make a mint from this and so does SVCE. It is the very definition of consumer scam.

      In answer to your question, you must consider your whole bill amount, not just the SVCE portion to determine your overall savings. If you can save 1% the first year, I’d consider that lucky. Unfortunately, the second and subsequent years may offer little or no savings and, worse case, higher costs than PG&E. Considering the scam they used to switch exactly how many (?) customers over, I don’t trust them to offer any savings to the consumer. SVCE started off on the absolute wrong foot in this industry and that track record isn’t something they can ever live down.

      Like

    • commorancy said, on February 23, 2018 at 4:50 pm

      As for whether I was able to switch back, yes, but at a cost. Not only do I have to pay a disconnect fee from SVCE, I have to pay a reconnect fee with PG&E. On top of that, my PG&E rates get put under a 6 month non-optimal rate probation period. This means that my rates are likely to be higher than they would have otherwise been if I had not been summarily switched by SVCE without notice.

      Like

    • commorancy said, on February 23, 2018 at 5:01 pm

      If I were a conspiracy / collusion theorist, I might even consider that PG&E had a hand in funding SVCE to get this scam off of the ground…. a scam built for the expressed intent of getting around PG&E’s regulations and to help both companies make yet more money off of consumers. No, I haven’t looked into who owns and who is funding SVCE and frankly, I don’t care.

      Like

      • Hannah said, on March 10, 2018 at 10:43 pm

        Thank you so much for this article! Luckily for me, I opted out within 60 days because I noticed that our bill was higher than usual and upon inspecting the bill, I noticed SVCE. I contacted pg&e ti inquire. I was actually told by pg&e that my bill should be the same or lower. I felt that they wanted me to actually stay with SVCE (sounded strange coming from supposedly a competitive company). This brings me to your “conspiracy theory” which I actually am convinced of it. Sadly, my friend is going through a tough time with this company as we speak!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jay said, on April 12, 2018 at 7:22 pm

          Hi Hannah, when you opted out within the 60 day period, were you able to return to PG&E’s standard rates or did that put you on PG&E’s transition rate for 6 months?

          Liked by 1 person

          • commorancy said, on April 12, 2018 at 7:29 pm

            Hi Jay,

            While I can’t answer for Hannah, here are my thoughts. Knowing PG&E, they are likely to put everyone on their transitional rates after being moved to SVCE simply because they can. It’s a way for PG&E to make more money. You can call PG&E and ask if there’s any kind of grace period, though. Even though PG&E couldn’t help me with my situation because it was past 60 days and they won’t talk about SVCE’s business, they could at least discuss PG&E’s business.

            Like

        • commorancy said, on April 12, 2018 at 7:47 pm

          Hi Hannah,

          Yes, SVCE is pretty much a scam outfit. I’m entirely disappointed in Cupertino for allowing this situation to occur without any kind of end user permission. In what business ever does some random unknown company get to grab parts of your bill without your permission? This is why it requires a lawyer who’s versed in such matters to take this up as a class action lawsuit against SVCE and PG&E both.

          The problem with this situation is that you had to first know about it. I was not informed in any way. They also failed to request my permission to switch generation providers. The only way you got informed was on your bill, after the fact. Because my bills are actually e-bills and go directly to my bank for bill pay, I don’t get to see them quickly each month. I know, this is partially my mistake for not monitoring each and every bill monthly. The problem is, it’s too easy to miss a bill and PG&E is not at all forgiving of missed bills. So, I opt for bill pay convenience to avoid this. This also means I lose out on seeing monthly bills quickly. I must remember to log into PG&E’s web site to view my bills… and they don’t make this terribly easy.

          The other side of this is that while SVCE claims to be clean energy, they don’t back up those claims anywhere. You really have no idea if what they’re selling you is any cleaner than what PG&E is selling you. Worse, because PG&E gets to charge extra fees because you’ve moved generation providers, SVCE’s alleged cost savings aren’t what they claim. In the long run, I’m pretty sure that SVCE is likely to rope you in with supposed cheaper rates, then raise those rates slowly over time above PG&E’s rates while you don’t notice.

          Based on scam they used to obtain all of their customers, I simply do not trust SVCE at all. SVCE is one of the sleaziest business operations I’ve yet encountered in the utility business. And, worse, PG&E seems to somehow approve of what’s going on. I’m still considering this is likely a form of collusion.

          Like


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