Showing posts with label consumer. Show all posts

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Electricity Rate Recommendation

Before electricity deregulation consumers in the old HL&P area were paying just under 8 cents a kWh in a long term, no maintenance, contract. Now after 13 years of deregulation consumers have the ability to "Shop, Compare, Choose" according to the Public Utility Commission's website, the พนันออนไลน์ ฟรีเครดิตPowerToChoose.org. Unfortunately choosing using the tools provided by the PUC is complicated and deceiving. Don't take my word for it, even the Commissioner agrees. From Jim Malewitz of the Texas Tribune:


Donna Nelson, chairman of the Public Utility Commission, said Thursday at a public meeting. “They’ve [electricity resellers] got all these tricky little things in their prices, and whatever the fact sheets are called – the nutrition label – that makes it really difficult for customers.”
I'm putting the final touches to a presentation titled "How to Select a Cost Effective Electricity Reseller" and in doing so stumbled upon a plan that is about as close to what we had pre-deregulation. Is it the cheapest? Maybe not for your specific usage and your home but if you are looking for a no gimmick, no extra fees, no hidden costs, with a relatively low rate, this is the one for you.

Recommendation:
Discount Power has a 12 or 24 month plan at 7,.7 cents per kWh no matter how much electricity you use during the month. Many plans have variable rates, discounts and extra fees depending upon your usage during a specific month. It can be very complicated to compute a real rate and sometimes it isn't as low as it seems, but knock yourself out if you want to try.

With this plan you have a long, no maintenance contract, at 7.7 plus tax. If you appreciate a relatively low rate, a longer contract, and no gimmicks, this is the one for you. Discount Power Saver No Gimmicks 24 signup can be found here. The electricity fact sheet is here.

BTW I do not receive any referral fees from Discount Power and I have signed up myself.

Friday, February 12, 2016

How much will that $17.99 oil change cost?

I should have known better.

That $17.99 oil change advertised by a company on Bay Area Blvd in Clear Lake cost me $53.00. I was in a hurry and my regular service station, NTB, was not available. They charge me $26.00 drive out and they rotate my tires. So being in a hurry I fell for the $17.99 ad. (Afterward I drove down the street to get my tires balanced and rotated for free at Discount Tires. They are a great place for tires)

After my cars hood was up, the oil was being drained I fell for the upgraded service of using Pennzoil instead of Mobil. That was $33.99. That was my mistake. Chalk that up to just plain stupidity. My bad. So after the $33.99 there was tax, an oil filter, an extra quart of oil, and a disposal fee.

All of this was included in my $26.00 service at NTB. So my suggestion when falling for this advertisement is to ask "How much will that $17.99 oil change cost me for my particular car?". Turns out my car takes 6 quarts of oil. The $17.99 includes up to 5 quarts. And you should ask if that includes an oil filter and disposal fees.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Best Buy, Sears and their new arbitration clause

Lucky for Best Buy and Sears most Americans are too busy buying that giant flat screen TV, computers, and notebooks, to worry about the loss of their rights to the Constitution.

Best Buy has upgraded their arbitration policy and consumers have the choice of declining it. According to Best Buy  "We will not close your account if you only reject the arbitration change.". Mighty nice of them. At least they give you the opportunity to opt out. Most other companies, that restrict your rights to the Constitution, do not allow this opt out provision.

Sears has adopted the same language.

The notice goes on to claim that arbitration bars you from a jury trial or joining a class action suit. Instead of a Judge and Jury in a courthouse, which you have paid for with your taxes, you have the honor of submitting your claim to a private justice system, ie the American Arbitration Association. They claim arbitration is simple and less expensive, which is not always the case.

You have to write to both if you want to opt out. I doubt most card holders will take time away from learning their new remote to do so.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Power to Choose. It ain't that easy.

If you listen to to those who support Ken Lay's electricity deregulation you might think choosing an electricity plan that's right for you might be as easy as visiting the Public Utility Commission of Texas website, the PowerToChoose.org. Well it ain't but go ahead and visit. Using the website, enter a zip code of 77062 and display the fixed rate, 12 month plans. Go ahead. I'll wait.

The lowest rate displayed is by Discount Power for 7.4 cents a kWh, lower than what we were paying before deregulation, but it isn't the rate you will pay if you select this plan. Open the Electricity Facts Label. I've written about this about a year ago. It wasn't easy then and it's harder now.

A year ago I created a spreadsheet to calculate the real rate based upon the kWh used, the penalties, and the monthly fees based upon my usage from last year. This year the tricks and gimmicks broke my spreadsheet. So I had to call Discount to understand their plan.

The rate for this plan is actually 11.64 cents multiplied by the kWh used, minus $45.00 if the usage is over 1000 for that month. Got that? And add the $3.05/month charge for electronic metering. This rate includes the TDSP delivery charges but not the taxes.

After many phone calls I gave in and extended by plan with PennyWise at a calculated rate of about 9.7 cents.  After all someone has to pay the middlemen with the complicated rates.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tonight: The Rising Cost of Home Insurance in the Bay Area

If you have nothing better to do but wonder why your home insurance premiums have skyrocketed over the last decade after insurance reforms of 2003, come on by for a discussion on the topic. From the Bay Area Association of Democratic Women:

The Rising Cost of Home Insurance is Focus of BAAD Women Meeting on Sept. 18 
"John Cobarruvias, a consumer activist in the areas of new home construction and home insurance, will be the featured speaker at the BAAD (Bay Area Association of Democratic) Women meeting on Thursday, September 18. He will share his experiences as an activist and discuss the high cost of home insurance in the Bay Area, the history of home insurance reform and the actions of the Texas Windstorm Association (TWIA)." 
It all happens at the Bay Area Community Center in Clear Lake Park, located at 5002 NASA Parkway (across the street from lake) in Seabrook. The meeting, which is free and open to the public, begins with light refreshments at 6:30 p.m. followed by the program at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Texas Department of Insurance Companies (T-DICS)

The Texas Department of Insurance should be renamed to the Texas Department of Insurance Companies (Texas-DICS). They department as a whole (not the individuals working there) are as impotent as the Texas Ethics Commission, unable to do the job they were designed to do in the first place, protect the consumer. From Paul Burka of Texas Monthly:

As for the question of whether TDI is an ally of the insurance industry or an ally of consumers, the facts speak for themselves.

Burka was talking specifically about the 75% rate hike for long term health insurance, a hike the DICS eagerly approved. Ever since Rick Perry's insurance reform of 2003 property rates have skyrocketed especially along the coastal areas. Under the banner of "less regulation", TDI can only watch as the industry continues to raise premiums and the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association continues to drown in debt. Much like the Texas Ethics Commission, they have become a paper tiger, a wet noodle, a worthless gathering of talented people willing, but unable, to do the work of the people. This is all by design.

Luckily for the insurance industry, most Texans are more concerned about their taxex going up $10/year than their mortgage going up $100/month due to a rise in home insurance. Texans tend to be easily distracted.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Before you buy AT&T's Mobile Share Value Plan

AT&T has been advertising a new mobile plan. You might want to read the fine print before signing up.

The plan allows 4 phones to share 10GBs of data, unlimited calls and texts for $160/month which is a pretty good deal. In the past once you signed up for a plan under AT&T you could upgrade your phones periodically at a discounted rate if you sign a 2 year commitment. With this new plan, the commitment by AT&T to provide the discount is gone.

Turns out AT&T still requires the two year upgrade, but you pay $25/month more for the phone. So your $160/month can easily turn into a $260/month for 4 phones. I've been with AT&T before it was called AT&T. This is the first time I found them to be deceiving, less than truthful. It was always very easy to upgrade and there wasn't any fine print. Now you need reading glasses.

So after the $160/month plan and upgrading your phones, the plan is just as expensive as it was before. 

Others have noticed this gimmick and many have complained on the AT&T forums. Duglin.net has a detailed review:
What AT&T doesn't clearly explain in their advertising is that the monthly discount for each phone no longer applies once you upgrade to a new phone by renewing your contract and buying a subsidized phone.


Sunday, June 01, 2014

Texas new law requires coastal residents to bailout TWIA

This is almost funny.

After a decade of "reforms" of the insurance industry, the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association is on the brink of financial ruin. Prior to 2003 TWIA covered only 6% of the coastal areas, a truly last resort insurance option. Today they cover over 70% becoming the only resort for most home owners. And now after massive failure, the Texas Legislature passed a bill that allows TWIA to pass a surcharge to those in the coastal areas to bail out TWIA. From the Brownsville Herald:

The updated rules provide for a surcharge on auto and property insurance policies to help pay for claims if TWIA reserves are exhausted and if the first level of “post-event” bonds issued aren’t sufficient to cover claims.

So after a decade of promises of lower rates, better coverage, and lower premiums, the people along the coast, who voted for the people who made these promises, are now going to be the people who pay for it. The only thing they have left is to laugh at themselves for being such incredible, gullible, fools and for doing nothing about it.

So if you want to blame someone, blame yourself. If you want to complain, contact your State Representative, John Davis. He will be retiring and paying his insurance bill with your tax dollars. Your State Senator, Larry Taylor, owns an insurance agency and sells TWIA policies. You will be bailing him out also.

It's almost funny.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Evaluating TXU's Texas Choice 12 Plan

Electricity prices are not very easy to compare, almost impossible. Recently I evaluated the claims by Reliant Energy's "Sweet Deal" plan. Here is an evaluation of TXU's "Texas Choice 12". The bottom line is that Texans should choose a different provider.

First this plan is advertised at 12.90 a kWh, a 3% cash back, and a $150 cancellation fee. Unfortunately that rate is for usage of 2000+ kWh per month. Most individuals would never reach that threshold to qualify for this rates. The rate for using between 1000 and 2000 is 13.60, which is what I used for my calculations. They also have a $4.95 monthly fee for the "privilege" of being charged for electricity. And don't forget if you conserve energy and use less than 500 kWh per month, the charge is an outrageous 15 cents! From TXU's website:

Average Monthly UseAverage Price per kWh
500 kWh15.00 ¢
1000 kWh13.60 ¢
2000 kWh12.90 ¢

Based upon all of the above and my usage over the last year the bottom line is $1541.60 for the entire year with an average of  13 cents a kWh. That includes the whopping $38 cash back for the entire year.

I would rate this TXU Energy Texas Choice 12 Plan nothing more than a gimmick. Look elsewhere. There are much better deals. I went with PennyWise, but there are no guarantees the same plan exists today.

Now, how is that electricity deregulation ushered in by Enron doing for you?



Saturday, March 15, 2014

Recapping the process of choosing an electricity provider

Who proposed to deregulate electricity? Ken Lay and Enron. How has that worked out fer ya?

After a week of attempting to find the best electricity provider I finally selected one, but it wasn't as easy as "shopping around" or visiting the Power To Choose website. Here is what I found:

  1. PowerToChoose.org website lacks the PowertoCompare. It does not have the ability to truly compare prices which would include penalties for conserving energy, monthly fees, credit check fees, fees for auto deduction, or application fees.
  2. Hidden fees. Many, if not all, providers will charge you a fee of $9 - $20.00 if you conserve energy and use less than 1000 kWh in a month. Last year I had only 4 months over 1000.
  3. Not so hidden fees. Some providers simply charge a monthly fee ranging from $9 to $15. 
  4. No PowertoCompare. The PowertoChoose There is no capability to truly compare rates. My poorly crafted spreadsheet accepted the cost per kWh, the monthly fee, and the penalty and calculated a cost per month based upon last years usage and the average cost per kWh. (I'll blog the results later)
  5. Other plans. The Power to Choose does not have all the plans available. I was able to select a plan when I found the company had other lower cost plans available. 
  6. Auto deductions. Some providers will also charge you a fee, about $12, if you are not enrolled in an auto deduction program.
  7. Reversed hidden fees. I found a couple of providers out of the hundreds available, that actually charges less per kWh if you are below 1000 kWh. This blew my spreadsheet, so I need to research this a little more.
Centerpoint energy actually has a website (mytruecost.com) that can compare prices based upon your usage over the years if you have an electronic meter. Unfortunately not all the electricity providers participate. There's always a catch.

Monday, March 10, 2014

And yet one more surprise in my PowerToLose

OK this is my last update on my saga of selecting a new electricity reseller.

As I said last time:
I have finally settled on Penny Wise at an advertised rate of 8.7 cents per kWh. It's not without caveats.

Yep. The caveats got me. It turns out this great rate was based upon using 2000 kWh per month, a limit I have never achieved in my 2400 sq ft home. My usage has not ever topped 1500 and only 4 months out of the year have I been over 1000 kWh. The 8.7 cent rate was based upon using 2000 kWh a month, a detail buried in fine print. The real rate for those using less than 2000 is 9.2 which in my case, based upon my historical usage and factoring fees and penalties, comes out to 9.8.

So, 9.8 is only .2 over my last rate but I had to scrap to find it. I do remember the 7 cent rate I had for many years prior to deregulation, but someone has to pay the salaries of the middlemen resellers.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

The Power to Lose at the PowertoChoose.org

Shopping around for an electricity provider isn't as simple as comparing rates at the PowertoChoose.org. It's easy if you mindlessly accept the lowest cost per kilo watt hour without reviewing the hidden fees or penalties.There are hundreds of plans available with enough options to make you think electricity deregulation has been a complete failure. (it is)

After a few hours of research, which included creating a spreadsheet to compare plans based upon last years usage, I found the following about the plans available:
  1. Hidden fees. Many, if not all, providers will charge you a fee of $9 - $20.00 if you conserve energy and use less than 1000 kWh in a month. Last year I had only 4 months over 1000.
  2. Not so hidden fees. Some providers simply charge a monthly fee ranging from $9 to $15. 
  3. No PowertoCompare. The PowertoChoose website lacks the PowertoCompare. There is no capability to truly compare rates. My poorly crafted spreadsheet accepted the cost per kWh, the monthly fee, and the penalty and calculated a cost per month based upon last years usage and the average cost per kWh. (I'll blog the results later)
  4. Other plans. The Power to Choose does not have all the plans available. I was able to select a plan when I found the company had other lower cost plans available. 
  5. Auto deductions. Some providers will also charge you a fee, about $12, if you are not enrolled in an auto deduction program.
  6. Reversed hidden fees. I found a couple of providers out of the hundreds available, that actually charges less per kWh if you are below 1000 kWh. This blew my spreadsheet, so I need to research this a little more.
So, if you think it is easy to shop around, well it is, if you are willing to accept higher rates with hidden fees. KHOU has more on the hidden fees:


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Space Center Blvd aka Pothole Alley?

Is it just me?

I drive on Space Center Blvd from Pineloch to Bay Area Blvd twice a day, Monday thru Friday, and it seems there's not a day without a new pothole either being fixed or developing.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Still paying for the toll roads

I just noticed the cost to travel Beltway 8 from I45 south to I10 costs $5.25, $1.75 for each leg. Just a few months ago it was only $1.50, nearly a 20% increase. So where are the outraged protesters with their misspelled signs demanding lower taxes? No where. You have to give credit to the Harris County Commissioners. They know that slowly and steadily increasing a toll, for a road that has already been paid for, would be tolerated by the public, creating a load of money for their general revenue funds.

Take a minute to watch an undercover report by Wayne Dolcefino where he claims the toll roads have been paid for many times over. So why are they continuing to collect tolls and to increase the cost of the tolls? The answer is simple. The "fiscally conservative" gang of Commissioners can boast that they are managing the county without a tax increase, when in fact they are collecting millions of new taxes that toll road drivers tolerate.



Texas consumers are suckers and our elected officials at the County know it.