Blog: PUC Warns Consumers About Copy Cat Websites

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“Unfortunately, some companies seemingly choose to blur the line between our site and theirs, creating confusion that is just unacceptable.”

— PUC executive director John Paul Urban III.

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Consumer advocates often recommend the state’s powertochoose.org website as a useful tool for residential electricity shopping. Although not perfect, the website lists a wide selection of offers in areas of the state with electric choice and also includes electric company complaint data.

Powertochoose homepage. Beware of copy cat sites.

But here’s a big problem — a number of private companies have begun marketing their own non-affiliated websites with names that sound similar to powertochoose.org. Just conduct a “power to choose” search on Google to see a long list of them — they’ll pop up on the first page of results. Consumers who visit many of these copycat sites have no easy way of determining whether they operate in a fair and impartial manner, nor whether they have side deals with listed electric providers.

Recognizing this problem, the Public Utility Commission has begun warning customers to pay close attention when searching for powertochoose.org on the Internet. Agency staff members also have begun sending cease and desist letters to some of the site operators. “(But) unfortunately, some companies seemingly choose to blur the line between our site and theirs, creating confusion that is just unacceptable,” PUC executive director John Paul Urban III said in a recent statement.

The official powertochoose.org site includes helpful filters to sort plans, plus versions of the website exist in both English and Spanish. The PUC also manages powertochoose.org in a transparent fashion, and even conducts periodic work sessions to improve the site in response to consumer suggestions. These workshops are held in public. No such operational transparency exists with most for-profit sites.

Urban, of the PUC, encourages Texans with concerns about any confusing copycat site to reach out to the agency’s Customer Protection Division, either by email (customer@puc.texas.gov) or phone (888-782-8477).

“Our competitive marketplace for electricity has created a remarkably level playing field and we’re committed to protecting customer choice,” he said. “If folks see sites that appear to be confusing or misleading people into thinking they’re on our official site, I hope they’ll call our customer hotline so we can seek resolution on their behalf.”

— R.A. Dyer