Understanding Your Contract
Just like signing up for cell phone service, if you decide to switch your electricity service, you will need to sign a contract for that service with a retail electricity supplier. Retail electricity supplier contracts (including online, written, and verbal recorded contracts) must include certain information about the terms and conditions of their service. Review this information carefully before you agree to any contract. All contracts must include the following “material terms”:
•The retail electricity supplier’s Maryland PSC license number
•A list and description of the services offered
•Price, including the price of all fixed and variable costs
•Minimum usage and/or time-of-use restrictions
•A notice that the price does not include utility charges
•A description of the billing procedures
•A notice that the customer’s billing and payment information may be provided to the retail electricity supplier
•Length (or term) of the contract and automatic renewal provisions
•Deposit information, if a deposit is required
•Procedure for canceling the contract, including any penalties for early cancellation
•An explanation of whether the retail electricity supplier can cancel the contract early and the customer’s options if the retail electricity supplier cancels the contract
•Any additional fees or charges, other than for the electricity supply
•Contract renewal procedures
•A description of dispute resolution procedures, and
•The PSC’s toll-free telephone number and Internet address.
The retail electricity supplier’s price includes generation and transmission charges, and does not include any utility charges or taxes. This price is not regulated by the Maryland PSC.
The retail electricity supplier will send you a confirmation notice summarizing your new service agreement and providing customer service contact information. Your utility will also send you a notice confirming your change in supplier.
You are not required to sign up for electricity supply service with a retail electricity supplier. If you do nothing, you will remain a customer of your utility for both electricity supply and delivery service.
Different Ways to Enroll with a Retail Electricity Supplier
You can enter into a contract with a retail electricity supplier in several ways. No matter what kind of contract you enter into, keep a copy of the contract and all customer information in a safe place, and make a note of when the contract begins and ends. The various methods of enrollment are listed below; click each link to learn more.
You may be able to sign up for electricity service with a retail electricity supplier on the retail electricity supplier’s website. The retail electricity supplier’s website must include the following information:
- The entire contract should appear on your computer screen and offer you the option to print and/or save an electronic copy of it.
- The retail electricity supplier’s Maryland PSC license number must appear on the website.
- The retail electricity supplier must disclose information about its price (what is included/not included and that it is not regulated by the PSC).
By submitting a request for service electronically, you are accepting the terms of the agreement and authorizing the retail electricity supplier to contact your utility to switch your electricity service. The retail electricity supplier will confirm your identity by emailing you a response to confirm your request for electricity service.
Retail electricity suppliers are permitted to use sales agents who come to your home to offer you electricity service. These agents must clearly identify themselves and the company they represent and present a photo ID. These agents are not permitted to represent themselves as working for or being associated with your utility.
Retail electricity suppliers must obey all state laws and local ordinances and rules about door-to-door sales. Some towns and cities may require sales agents to obtain a “solicitation” or “peddler’s” license, or they may have rules about the time of day sales agents can visit peoples’ homes. Retail electricity suppliers and their agents must obey those rules and obtain the necessary licenses.
- The sales agent must provide you with a completed receipt or copy of any contract that shows the date of the transaction and contains the name and address of the retail electricity supplier.
- You have the right to cancel the contract within three (3) business days of completing the transaction.
- The sales agent must give you written notice of this right to cancel and give you a “Notice of Cancellation” form that you can sign and return to the retail electricity supplier.
All telephone contracts with residential customers require the retail electricity supplier to do the following:
- Record the conversation with you to prove your consent to the contract
- Disclose all of the material terms of the contract to you during the call
- Send you a complete written contract within three (3) days
You can call a retail electricity supplier directly to sign up for service. Information about how to contact licensed retail electricity suppliers in your area can be found on the PSC’s Supplier Search page. When you call to sign up for service, a retail electricity supplier will:
- Explain the offer(s) and review the material terms of the agreement
- Ask you to affirm your choice
- Ask you to provide your utility account information
- Record your call to execute your telephone contract
- Send you a confirmation notice, along with a copy of the contract
Retail electricity suppliers are permitted to call you at your home to ask you to sign up for electricity service. Retail electricity suppliers are required to respect the Federal Do Not Call regulations.
If a retail electricity supplier calls you at your home, a voice-recorded contract (proof of your consent) is permitted, and your signature is not required, if:
- The retail supplier has made a previous sale to you
- You have done business with that retail electricity supplier before
- You initiated the contact and the retail supplier is following up
- You have received direct mail from the retail electricity supplier with information about its offer, or
- You have seen advertisements about the retail electricity supplier’s offer
If none of these conditions apply, your signature on a paper contract is required for the contract to be valid.