OpsLens

RTOs / Delmarva Power Predatory Practice?

How state/local Maryland government  let a family suffer through a stifling heat wave

The purpose of government, despite all of the political discussions and party rhetoric, is simple.  To ensure the safety and protection of its citizens from predators.  Yet we talk about extraneous issues such as transgender rights, or illegal immigration as if everything was well, and we are just cleaning up tiny messes which require attention. However, all is not well.  Severe problems exist in the system, and the way to deal with them are not being addressed.

For example, when flying on an airplane we are told that the rule is to place the oxygen over your own mouth before assisting someone else with theirs. There is a simple reason for this, you can’t help others if you are suffering.

Well, our government has a tendency to try to help others outside our home, while millions are taken advantage of and hurt inside our cities and towns.  These people are forgotten, and they need attention and help NOW.  Because in the case of our analogy – they are running out of air.

Today the weather in the northeast is a stifling 90 degrees with humidity at 42%. The air quality alert is on with people suffering from this raging heatwave.  Some people have been hurt more than others. The family of Mr. Joshua Zimmers is a case in point.

RTOs AND PREDATORY PRACTICES

Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs), without going into detail, are small energy companies that buy electricity off the gird and deliver power to homes.  They are independent of the large utility companies, and since they are smaller than your local energy provider, they can in theory, buy and sell electricity cheaper.

This is possibly so.  But predatory practices exist.  They are currently hitting low income, unsuspecting customers in Maryland.  There are no protections to help these customers. For example, Tomorrow Energy scams its customers by signing people up without a signature

Some of these small RTOs that sell to consumers actually are predators.  In Maryland some RTOs are signing up customers illegally without their permission, sometimes more than one RTO to a single customer.  Because of deregulation, the energy companies that send your bill are compelled to add them because of laws created by our state government leaders.  However, no protection was built in for the consumer- signatures are not required, which is preposterous.

THIS IS PERSONAL

An individual in northeast Maryland has not only been greatly affected by government bureaucracy but has found himself immersed in this problem that he did not cause. The problem was actually caused by Maryland state government.  However, government bureaucracy, and red tape along with the policies of organizations that are supposed to service people, does not care if its citizens suffer from the undue hardships they have created.

The government created regional RTOs and did not do a single thing to ensure consumer protections. In fact, the laws made it easy to do that.

The case of Joshua Zimmers, from northeast Maryland, is a classic example.  Joshua has three children and the state of Maryland has allowed regional power companies (RTOs) to become predators. Soliciting unsuspecting energy customers to purchase alternative energy, without their approval, then creating red tape to remove them from the bill.  The result has been undue hardship – that was out of his control, yet no one seems to listen.

Mr. Zimmer has been in discussion with his energy company for a bill covering an eight month period of over $4,000 for a 750 sq ft home.  The local electric company Delmarva power has shut him off for two weeks. They refuse to turn him back on despite pleas from state Senator Jason Gallion’s Office, and calls from the Public Service Commission.  Delmarva Power, (northeast Maryland’s power provider), has refused to turn him on.  After providing a $950 payment requested by the state energy office, Delmarva immediately closed the account and is requiring additional money in a deposit to turn him back on.  This is criminal. (The Maryland Energy Assistance Company representative I spoke to does not understand why the rules were changed ten minutes after an agreement was reached.)

DELMARVA POWER IS NOT HELPFUL (ALL OR NOTHING)

Calls to Delmarva Power were not helpful. I was on the phone when Delmarva rep Kristi White was blatantly rude to the customer, who was without electricity for two weeks, disputing the fact that Mr. Zimmers has RTOs on his account.  His May billing, which I have seen myself, shows two of them. Delmarva demanded the entire $4,000 to turn on the electricity, despite what Energy Assistance told Mr. Zimmers on Monday. Pleas to work this out with electricity on, have gone without any response.

Regardless, Mr. Zimmer and his three children, one of whom is two years old, has been sitting in this unbelievably stifling summer heat of over 90 degrees without power for two weeks, with the state agencies all requesting for him to fill out more and more paperwork.  Delmarva power is unresponsive to a customer in need and distress. This is not the way it is supposed to be.

There is no end in sight.  On Monday, with the help of a benefactor, Delmarva was paid $950 to turn the electricity on. He provided the confirmation number, only to be told the next day that his account was shut off, and he was in arrearage for the entire bill of over $4,200.

RTOs ARE THE CULPRIT

RTOs were created to save consumers money, by buying energy off the grid.  However, state government did not add the protections to the consumer, so the result is the exact opposite.  It causes rates to not double but, in this case, quadruple.  In Mr. Zimmers’ case, this happened without a signature, or approval of the customer. Tomorrow Energy is a prime example.

These RTOs arrive at low income homes the day the electric bill comes.  Their representatives stand beside the mailbox of unsuspecting customers. They conveniently know when the electric bills will arrive. Spotting their unsuspecting prey, these reps ask to see their electric bill. The representative will take a picture of the bill with their phone and tell the customer they will return with a quote.  The return visit never happens, no signatures or agreements are made. Within a month the service is switched to carriers like Tomorrow Energy. Carriers are doing this without permission or signatures.  In two cases Mr. Zimmers’ information was taken from his thirteen year old daughter and fifteen year old son.  (Minors obviously)

The customer is now forced to pay the exorbitant electricity bill – bills they cannot afford – or face turnoff. The bills accumulate to thousands of dollars. The RTO does not bill the customer directly, the charges find themselves on the customer’s utility main bill (in this case Delmarva Power).  The large energy company billing these customers does not care if the bill is too high, they just want their payment.

PREDATORY PRACTICES GO UNRESOLVED

Most of these customers are low income families who do not know or understand the system.  They have no clue how to resolve it, and they go to the State Energy Assistance for help when the bill becomes overwhelming, as in this case.  The State Energy Assistance doesn’t resolve the problem, they pay these RTOs from state money that has been set aside, using up needed resources that have been set aside to help Marylanders get through summer and winter months.

At the end of the period, when the state runs out of money (sometimes around May/June), there is no money to pay off the electric bill.  In the case of Mr. Zimmers, with the state out of funding, they cannot pay the bill and the electricity is cut off.

Mr. Zimmers and his family have been without power for two weeks.   I doubt very much if he is the only person who has been affected.  I heard of an elderly woman with an $18,000 bill.  This event is causing undue hardship on many, including Mr. Zimmers,  his wife, children and family.  They cannot afford the rising bills, and the dynamic of this situation has caused them to point fingers at one another, instead of the culprit, the electric companies.  The children, one of them a beautiful two year old boy named Lincoln, are made to suffer. They are praying for help.

Government is of no help.  His calls to the state for aid have not resolved the issue, with more and more paperwork needing to be submitted. Keep in mind this is more difficult to do without electricity.  It has gotten to the point where he has asked himself, “When is someone going to help?”

Both Tomorrow Energy Electric and Green Choice Electric are performing out and out fraud against unsuspecting customers. No one needs their electric bills tripled for no reason. The RTOs are obviously not helping consumers. Why they are licensed to operate in the state of Maryland, is a question that should be answered. What are they doing to help the consumer?

Delmarva power also has some accountability – turning off customers without any recourse to resolve the matter, is absurd. Turning a blind eye when the bills skyrocket is absurd, then the customer’s only recourse is to pay the full bill? How is that helping anyone?

Just for reference, my home in Cecil County is four times the size of his.  My yearly electric bill is less than half of his, and I use much more than Mr. Zimmers with a pool and central air.

Government Needs To Do Something

Governor Wes Moore, Senator Gallion, and others, you should stop the obfuscation and get Mr. Zimmers’ electricity turned on.  It seems that you are comfortable at home, and they are suffering, and it is not an issue. But this is not the case. Everyone passes the responsibility to someone else, when the common sense solution is to get the electricity turned on and figure out all of the paperwork later, especially when someone has been clearly wronged.

However, that is not what the government does.  They talk about a problem, while people suffer.  Our news is more concerned with presidential politics, transgender rights, and giving payments to illegal immigrants than helping ordinary Americans with real problems.

Let’s put the oxygen mask on ourselves, before we go outside to help others.  Not that these issues are unimportant, but real people are hurting TODAY, in real time.  In all honesty, this problem should have been resolved in twenty-four hours, not two weeks later.

Fortunately as of today, a benefactor who wishes to remain anonymous at this time, paid his arrearage and Mr. Zimmers’ power was turned on today at 1pm.  No thanks to all of the state government agencies, state Senator Gallion, and other people who are supposed to protect people like Mr. Zimmers.   They feel they are doing something by calling, passing the buck, and never following up.

The problem is, real people are hurting.  The people they call just push the ball down to the next person, and it is unresolved. All the while, good people are in need of urgent response.  Personally, I would not feel it was completed until I heard that the power was turned on.  In some cases marriages are lost, and people could die from exposure to this 90+ , degree heat, especially the elderly or people with compromised lung issues.