When You Need to Disconnect Your Electricity Service

There are many reasons why people switch utility providers - price, customer service (or the lack of), moving to a different location. In Texas where the electricity market is deregulated in most areas, one would think that it's easy to simply disconnect electricity service and switch to a new provider. But that is not always the case.

Because of the competition between electricity service providers brought about by the deregulation, many providers offer very attractive low rates and other promotions - but, for a price. Most of the time you will be required to sign up for a contract. You could actually be locked in for 2 or 3 years. And the cancellation fees associated with such contracts are usually exorbitant, serving as a powerful deterrent for customers wanting to switch providers. In the Dallas area, for example, the cancellation fee may be as low as $20 per remaining month, or as high as $295. So, how do you disconnect your electricity service without incurring such a huge fee?

Here are some tips published by the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas:

• Retail electric providers are required to notify residential customers at least 30 days before a contract expires. The residential customer can switch without incurring an early termination charge if the switch is no earlier than 14 days before the contract expiration date provided in the notice. If the customer takes no action in response to the notice, the REP will serve the customer on a month-to-month product.
• A REP may authorize the disconnection of a customer's electric service after proper notice is given and not before the first day after the disconnection date provided in the notice. Service may be disconnected for non-payment of a bill, deferred payment arrangement, or deposit. A TDU may disconnect service in cases of emergencies, meter tampering, or unsafe conditions.
• If applicable, early termination fees are charged when a customer is under contract and service is canceled before the end of the contract term. Early termination fees are disclosed in the customer's Terms of Service and Electri