The Office of People's Counsel provides a consumer rights handbook for electric choice on its website. The Retail Energy Supply Association also has a brochure.

Constellation said Breau's experience was not typical. Spokeswoman Maureen Brown said company records show that two complaints related to door-to-door sales were filed with the Public Service Commission as of June.

The PSC reported 64 complaints of all kinds against Constellation and BGE Home in 2011, up from 27 the year before.

Constellation has acquired three companies in the past year to expand its business of selling power in states where residents can choose their electric suppliers. That business now has 1.1 million retail customers in Maryland, New Jersey and Illinois, among others.

The company, which is trying to sell itself to Chicago-based Exelon Corp., uses two vendors for its door-to-door marketing efforts in Maryland.

Brown said Constellation salespeople go through background checks and extensive training and must pass a written certification test. The company uses a third-party vendor to verify sales and also follows up with another customer satisfaction call.

"It's fair to say that we would like to have 100 percent customer satisfaction, and we're certainly committed to that," she said, adding that the company would work with Breau to address her complaint.

But "like any company, we do have instances where the sales transaction has elements that are not to the customer's satisfaction or where the particular standard of training was not executed properly," Brown added. "We can't claim perfection. We could certainly learn from all these experiences and try to get better."

Breau, who works in health care sales, agreed to sign up with Constellation and BGE Home on Dec. 19 based on information she said was provided by the sales agent.

But after reading through the paperwork the next day, Breau said she realized that BGE Home's natural gas price was higher than BGE's, so she attempted to cancel the deal for both electric and gas supply immediately.

While she was able to easily cancel the electric portion, Breau said she was told by BGE Home that it could not guarantee that the contract would be canceled by the Jan. 1 start date. Breau then filed a complaint with the Public Service Commission.

Last week, the commission forwarded Breau a letter from BGE Home, which said she would be switched back to BGE as her natural gas provider on Feb. 1. BGE Home would reimburse Breau for any charges exceeding what she would have paid through BGE in January, according to the letter. Breau would also receive a $50 gift card.

In the letter, BGE Home said it would use Breau's complaint to "educate our outside sales staff to avoid any customer issues or concerns moving forward."

Still, Breau said she was disappointed with her experience.

"I could not imagine a corporation like Constellation Energy would conduct business in this matter," she said.

hanah.cho@baltsun.com



For your protection



What you should know when you get a call or solicited at home:

•Ask for ID. Door-to-door salespeople must identify themselves and the companies they represent. Some jurisdictions, such as Howard County, also require sales agents to get a peddler's license.

•Ask for written materials and a contract. Salespeople must provide you with a copy of a contract with the company name, date and address. You must sign the contract.

•You have the right to cancel the agreement within three business days of the transaction. The sales agent must provide a Notice of Cancellation form.

•In telemarketing solicitations, the supplier must record the conversation to get your consent for a contract.

•The supplier also must disclose terms of the contract during the call and send you a written agreement within three days.

Source: Maryland Office of People's Counsel and Public Service Commission

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