Archive for May, 2008

The PUC answers your questions about National Power Company
May 30, 2008

Many of you who were switched to a POLR (Provider of Last Resort) after National Power Company went out of business have a lot of questions and concerns.  I took all of the questions you asked me to Public Utility Spokesman Terry Hadley.   I asked and he answered. Read it here:

Amy: So if customers have a one year contract with National Power Company, can NPC charge them for switching companies now as the contract states?

Hadley: Since National is leaving the market, former customers are not responsible for the fee. Customers should file a complaint with the PUC if the company attempts to collect.

Amy:  Consumers are telling me that most companies they want to switch to tell them it takes 35-45 days to switch. Is there anything that will speed up that time for these customers? They don’t want a June bill at the highest kilowatt rates. I know one customer told me Stream told them it’s standard that it takes them 45 days to switch customers over.

Hadley: An ERCOT representative said a switch could happen within four business days. This would require a waiver of the customer notification process designed to prevent slamming and give the customers a “cooling off” period. REP call center personnel should know about the ability to offer this waiver, especially to POLR customers. As you know, not all customer service people know all the rules all the time. So, it could be helpful if the customer asks, ”How soon can I get switched, and I am willing to waive the customer notification process in order to receive the lower-cost service faster.

Amy: A couple of NPC customers told me they had to put down a processing fee or deposit with NPC when they signed on. They’d like to know if they will get that back. If so, how? Can the PUC help?

Hadley: PUC rules require the deposit to be returned within seven days. If that doesn’t happen, file a complaint with the PUC.

You can file  a complaint with the PUC online.  You can also call the Customer Assistance Hotline at 1-800-621-0508. 

 

Consumers say National Power Company is pulling a fast one
May 28, 2008

 

The story we first broke about the Houston-based National Power Company trying to raise the rates on all of its fixed rate customers has taken more twists and turns than the old Texas Cyclone at Astroworld.

Here’s a timeline to help you keep up:

From: David Barrett [dbarrett@nationalpowerco.com]
Sent: Thursday, May 15, 2008 4:42 PM
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subject: Announcement

National Power Company has decided to rescind the scheduled rate increase set for late June 2008.  All Fixed rate pricing and terms shall remain as originally agreed.  National Power Company apologizes for any confusion caused by the rescinded letter.  All customers to whom the rate increase letter was sent to will recieve additional confirmation via mail. 

 David Barrett

Chief Financial Officer

National Power Company

616 fm 1960 w

Suite 700

Houston Tx 77090

281-377-7543

  • Tuesday, May 27th: The Public Utility Commission says National Power is no longer qualified to sell power as a retailer. The PUC has switched all of NPC’s fixed rate customers to “Providers of Last Resort.”  I emailed NPC’s CFO to tell him we plan to report that his company has gone out of business and that I would like to speak with him. No reply.
  • Wednesday, May 28th: National Power Company employee emailed customer, telling him “the media has it wrong”- they are not closed- then proceeds to try and sign him up for a new plan.  Read it for yourself:

From: Brittany Nix [mailto:bnix@nationalpowerco.com]
Sent: Wednesday, May 28, 2008 2:11 PM
To:
Cc: Javier Torres; Latoshia Williams
Subject: Concerning Fax

Mr. and Ms. (name removed at consumer’s request),

    I would like to apologize that you feel this way towards National Power Company, and also National Power is in no way going out of business. In order for the invoices to be sent to your home address, a new plan must be selected that does not include the automated payments.  If your still interested in cancelling the automated payments then please call the customer care line at 1-877-333-POWER to select a new plan. Also I would like to apologize for any inconvenience that this is causing you.

Thank you,

Brittany Nix

Account Executive

Bnix@nationalpowerco.com

National Power Company

616 FM 1960 RD W STE. 700

Houston, TX 77090

http://www.nationalpowerco.com/

Office-(281) 377-7570 EXT. 2219

Fax- (713) 715-6953

Customer Care (Toll Free) 1-877-333-POWER

Back to the blog here:

Here’s what you need to know. The PUC says “National Power Company is no longer qualified to sell power as a retailer” bcause NPC failed to pay its ERCOT bill. That means it can’t get the electricity to sell to you.

You should also RUN, DON’T WALK and find a new electric provider if you were one of the NPC customers on a fixed rate that just got switched to a Provider of Last Resort (POLR). If you do not choose a new company, you will be stuck with one of the highest rates available. Right now, the POLR’s basic rate is 16.1 cents a kilowatt and that doesn’t include other fees and charges POLR’s are allowed to charge.

We are committed to covering “Your Electric Bill” at KPRC.  Please let us know what you’re hearing and seeing so we can keep an eye out for you.

The Great Stay-cation
May 26, 2008

My story at 4 today is all about the newest travel trend… staying home for the summer holidays.

With the soaring cost of gas and baggage upcharges on the airlines, families are looking for fun that’s not so far away.

In the spirit of saving, I’d like you to post your ideas.  I want your recommendations of some great Houston and Greater Houston area hot spots.

Here are some that come quickly to my mind:

The Cockrell Butterfly Center

My family used to go to a campground and recreation center called Chain O’ Lakes. I’ve been wanting to take a weekend trip there since I moved back to Houston.  There were areas where you could camp in a tent or you could rent a cabin. There was a lake-fed pool with a slide… or the more adventurous could swim in the chain of lakes along with a lot of friendly-seeming gators!

When I tried to check the place out recently, I found the name has changed and it’s gotten more high-falootin! But it’s only about an hour north of Houston, and it looks like a lot of fun.

The Retreat at Artesian Lakes

Moody Gardens    

 What about a Dude Ranch?? I think that sounds like so much fun!

For the adults….

St. Arnold Brewing Company Tours 

Tours are every Saturday at 1pm. The cost is only $5.

Cooking anyone? Get some girlfriends together and register to make something yummy.

HEB Central Market, Brennan’s of Houston and Whole Foods all offer classes and events.  And you can even get the kids involved. Maybe the end of summer, with a few of these classes, they’ll be making dinner for you!

Now share your ideas by posting a comment.  What did you do this Memorial Day weekend others may be able to try this summer?

Make-up deal no Glamorous Offer
May 18, 2008

Ohhh! That was a close one.

I received this email Friday and immediately started adding items in my cart. Check it out:

Nordstrom is changing the logo on their makeup, so they’re selling everything that says “e.l.f.” for $1!   http://www.eyeslipsface.com/shop.asp 
 
The make-up line E.L.F. (Eyes, Lips, and Face) has been bought out by Nordstrom and will be re-packaged with the Nordstrom name on it.
They are getting rid of all the make-up in ELF packaging.  They are selling everything for $1.  YES ONE DOLLAR.  
You do have to pay shipping, however, even with that charge it’s cheaper than buying make-up anywhere else and it is fun to try things when you don’t have
to worry about the cost! They have powder, mascara, brushes, nail polish, you name it.  Enter in the word CAROLINA on the coupon part to get more discounts.
 
Here’s the problem: Nordstrom’s is not buying this line. E.L.F. is always $1 for everything.  In fact, if you type in your zip code to find the nearest store that sells the brand, you’ll see you can drive to any Big Lots, Food-A-Rama or Fiesta and pick some up.  I’ll admit I’m a big discount shopper, but once I discovered the truth about E.L.F., it doesn’t seem like such a great deal.
You can read the fraud alert Nordstrom’s has posted on its website by clicking here and scrolling to the bottom:

Got a Gripe? Write it right!
May 15, 2008

I wish I could post a few of the letters I’ve received from disgruntled consumers.  Some are barely legible, up to 10 pages long…  and when I’ve finally deciphered what the writer’s problem is, the letter ends.. with NO contact information! Just a “I hope you have the decency to respond to this letter.” 

Well, guess what? I’m not a psychic.  And neither are the companies that receive your complaints. That’s why I think a lesson on “How to complain & Get results” is in order.

  • First- keep it simple.  You have probably been living with the broken TV or leaky faucet for months or weeks, but I don’t need a minute by minute account of your experience. What I do need are important facts, like dates- when did you first notice the leak? When did you first call the office to complain? Please give me the names of the people you have already spoken to about this problem. You should try to keep your letter to 1 page (and you can’t use 8 point font!).
  • What do you want? It’s important that you tell the company. They don’t know; and they’re more likely to give you what you want if you tell them. And be reasonsble. For example, I did a story once with a bride whose 3-tier wedding cake was leaning.  She was disappointed, but she admitted the cake was delicious.  After the honeymoon, the bride wrote the bakery and told them how upset she was.  The bakery offered her gift certificates to their restaurant/ bakery for 25% of the value of the cake (about $200). The bride balked at the offer- but she hadn’t herself suggested anything that would make her happy.
  • When do you want it? Don’t leave conversations open-ended.  You can simply write “I’ll expect a refund by Wednesday.”
  • Phone calls are no substitute for a good letter. The phone is always a good place to start your very first call- just to get an idea of how easy or difficult your battle with a business will be; but you really should put it in writing, date it, address it to someone who has the authority to make decisions and always keep a copy.

Now you can get to griping!