N.J. sues energy suppliers over consumer bills

©iStockphoto.com / sb-borg
©iStockphoto.com / sb-borg
Posted: June 06, 2014

New Jersey officials announced civil suits against three competitive energy suppliers Wednesday, alleging the marketers deceived consumers with promises of low utility rates and then hit them with huge bills.

The state says Palmco Power NJ L.L.C., Hiko Energy L.L.C., and Systrum Energy raised prices sharply on thousands of customers last winter. Palmco and Hiko were also accused of "slamming" customers - signing them up without their consent.

"These three companies allegedly lured consumers with promised monthly savings that turned out to be fictional," said Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman. "Even worse, consumers who hoped to save money instead saw their bills increase to unconscionable levels."

The enforcement actions are the latest effort by a state to rein in competitive suppliers after a torrent of customers complained about wild energy-price spikes last winter.

Palmco and Hiko, which are based in New York, are also licensed to operate in Pennsylvania.

Systrum, which is based in Fairview, N.J., abruptly discontinued service this year and reverted customers back to their utilities. It also deactivated its website, leaving consumers without access to information.

Officials from the three companies did not respond to phone messages.

The complaints seek restitution for consumers, as well as civil penalties, attorneys' fees, and costs.

New Jersey officials signaled last month an impending crackdown on suppliers after the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) approved a memorandum of understanding with the Attorney General's Division of Consumer Affairs spelling out the roles the agencies would take to prosecute suppliers for illegal marketing practices.

The state said it and the Better Business Bureau received about 1,463 consumer complaints about the three companies.

"While today's announced allegations against a few energy suppliers should send a clear message to the energy supply industry," said Dianne Solomon, the BPU president, "consumers should understand that there is still a robust market of alternative energy suppliers to be considered that may offer savings on electric and gas bills."


amaykuth@phillynews.com

215-854-2947 @maykuth

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|