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NY regulators investigate Ambit Energy over complaints of high bills

By: Tim Knauss |

The New York Public Service Commission is investigating a spike in consumer complaints against Ambit Energy, one of the state’s largest independent suppliers of electricity and gas for residential customers.

The commission’s consumer advocate is investigating allegations that Ambit – which is known for its guaranteed savings deal – moved some customers off that deal and onto a rate plan with significantly higher charges.

In other cases, the company may not have accurately calculated the rebates due to customers on the guaranteed savings plan, said Audrey Zibelman, PSC chair.

Most of the complaints came from Ambit customers who received higher-than-expected charges on their electric bills, Zibelman said today in a news release. Ambit is cooperating with the investigation, PSC officials said.

According to the PSC’s website for comparing energy service companies, Ambit offers a rate plan that guarantees customers savings of at least 2 percent below what they would pay their traditional utility company, such as National Grid or New York State Electric & Gas.

The PSC also is looking into whether Ambit notified customers when they reached the end of their contract term and whether it provided other required disclosure statements. The commission received 289 complaints against Ambit during the first quarter of 2015, after receiving just 448 for all of 2014.

The PSC asks consumers who believe their charges from Ambit were not accurate to file a complaint.

Late today, Ambit released a statement saying that the company will work with the PSC to resolve the complaints. The company said the 737 complaints received by the PSC in 2014 and 2015 represents less than half a percent of Ambit’s customers, implying that the company has more than 147,000 customers in New York.

“As one of the largest energy retailers in New York, Ambit takes customer satisfaction very seriously,” the company statement said.

The PSC investigation is being conducted by the commission’s new consumer advocate, a position created at the request of Gov. Andrew Cuomo to better respond to consumer
complaints. If the PSC determines that Ambit violated the commission’s rules, it could revoke the company’s license. No timetable has been set for concluding the probe.

Ambit Energy is based in Dallas, Texas, and has more than 250,000 network-marketing sales agents throughout the country.