Recently, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) -- the state's utility watchdog -- said that it will open an investigation into how Texas energy companies market their services under different trade names. Several PUCT Commissioners expressed concern that the current ability of Texas energy providers to use up to five trade or "assumed" names -- in addition to their legally certified name -- can be confusing to customers trying to understand who is trying to sell them power.
During a recent PUCT open meeting, Commissioner Donna Nelson noted that some smaller electric providers in Texas are simultaneously marketing under several names. The use of multiple names can confuse customers and frustrate their efforts to check an energy supplier's track record, complaint history, and compliance, Nelson said. Ultimately, the use of multiple trade names can hinder a customer's understanding of what company is truly trying to sell them power.
There are legitimate reasons why an electric company may want to use one or two "assumed" names in marketing electricity. For example, the company might be part of a larger conglomerate whose name otherwise does not connote their presence in the electric industry. Another example is that an electric company may want to differentiate one of its product lines --such as renewable energy service or prepaid service -- by branding not only that product with a unique name, but by offering the product exclusively under a different trade name.
Unfortunately, there are also less legitimate reasons for an energy supplier to use multiple assumed names. As cited by the PUCT, using multiple names, or frequently changing names, could be used to distance an electric company from a history of complaints or a bad public image. Certainly, there are examples of such actions in other industries. Although not completely analogous (since it involved a merger and change in corporate structure and not simply the creation of a new assumed name), the rise of the brand AirTran, in place of the much-maligned ValuJet, is a prime example of a company seeking to shed baggage associated with an old name.
Customers, however, can avoid being duped by multiple trade names by using SaveOnEnergy.com, a trusted industry expert, to find the lowest electric rate. SaveOnEnergy.com's experts diligently research and screen all energy providers, and track each different supplier's trade and assumed names. Only reputable electric companies with proven tracks records of providing customers with low rates and high levels of customer service are recommended by SaveOnEnergy.com, so customers don't have to worry about whether their electric supplier is just a shell company for another provider trying to hide its history.