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Criticism of energy suppliers is mistaken | READER COMMENTARY

Retail energy suppliers often lead consumers into thinking that a switch from their regulated utility supply will save them money. Critics say that, on average, households that choose third-party suppliers are paying more, not less, after switching. File.
Retail energy suppliers often lead consumers into thinking that a switch from their regulated utility supply will save them money. Critics say that, on average, households that choose third-party suppliers are paying more, not less, after switching. File. (John Woike / Hartford Courant)

Would you want someone to take away your ability to choose a mobile phone because legislators think you didn’t understand the rate plan? How about your right to choose your own doctor? As an American, likely not.

Recently, The Baltimore Sun published a commentary by Del. Brooke Lierman and Sen. Mary Washington regarding the “deregulated” retail energy market (“Switching utility companies means many low-income Marylanders paying more,” Sept. 22). The Retail Energy Supply Association (RESA) vehemently disagrees with this article and believes such assertions from legislators are not only misleading, but dangerous.

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The truth is Maryland is not deregulated; it has been restructured. Retail energy supply companies are regulated and must follow stringent rules and regulations as promulgated by the Maryland Public Service Commission. Today, in a competitive marketplace, if consumers are unsatisfied with the service they receive from a business — for example, a plumber — the solution is not to ban all plumbers or eliminate consumer choice altogether. The solution is to allow consumers to make a different choice.

Delegate Lierman and Senator Washington called on the state to crack down on companies “accused of bad business practices.” But what they failed to mention is the PSC is already doing this. The PSC launched two retail energy websites making information more transparent, user-friendly and robust enough that consumers can get what they need to make an educated decision about their energy provider. RESA supported legislation requiring the PSC to develop a training and educational program for suppliers to complete to ensure they are familiar with consumer protections that are in place.

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Decisions that affect Maryland consumers should be based on facts. So, here are the facts: First, competition in Maryland has brought down costs for all customers, those who shop and those who don’t shop. Federal data from the Energy Information Administration shows Maryland residential electricity prices have decreased by 19% since 2008.

Second, retail electric suppliers routinely offer dozens of plans priced below the Maryland standard offer service rate. According to Intelometry, a systems and data provider that specializes in retail energy markets and operations, if residential customers chose competitive electricity suppliers, they could have saved more than $42.8 million in August.

RESA strongly believes in protecting all consumers and maintaining a sustainable competitive market while preserving all consumers' right to choose their supplier. The fact is retail choice enjoys popular support in Maryland. That means it is important the PSC continues to rigorously enforce consumer protection and provide consumer education. Retail choice should be allowed to continue to work on behalf of Maryland residents. It’s not only what Maryland consumers want, it’s what they deserve.

Dan Allegretti, Harrisburg, Pa.

The writer is the national spokesperson for the Retail Energy Supply Association.

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