On July 22, 2010 – Direct Energy a natural gas and electricity supplier is offering their first prepaid electricity plan. This new service will allow anyone with good or bad credit to sign-up with Direct Energy’s new plan.
The current prepaid rate for electricity is 10.8 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is cheaper than other prepaid electricity plans but higher if you have good credit.
With the new digital meter, which updates the current electricity usage of your home, Direct Energy will use it to accurately measure the amount of electricity used. When the prepaid customers max-out their balance, the electricity will automatically cut off. The customer will be able to add more money and with new payment the electricity will be turn back on within a few hours.
To avoid maxing out with the prepaid plan, Direct Energy will send daily email or text message to your phone containing information on your electricity usage.
Consumer advocates say prepaid plans put customers at a disadvantage.
“You’re providing two different levels of customer protection,” said Carol Biedrzycki, executive director of Texas Ratepayers’ Organization to Save Energy.
Retailers extend credit to regular customers, while prepaid customers must constantly monitor their accounts to prevent getting cut off, she said.
“There is no risk to the company associated with a prepay account,” she said.
Some prepaid plans came under fire from the Public Utility Commission because the companies signed up customers who didn’t have digital meters.
The new digital meters are a new technology and not every home has one. It reads the electricity usage every 15 minutes.
This mean, Direct Energy require their prepaid customers to have the new meters and an email or a cell phone with text message to receive daily electricity updates.
Direct Energy’s Steffes said he aims to keep the prepaid price close to other market rates.
He said the daily information customers get about their usage and bill should make prepaid attractive for lots of customers, not just people who don’t want a credit check.