Attorney General Schneiderman says the companies lured consumers with false promises of 15 percent lower rates and instead their bills went up. Also, when customers sought to cancel service, Columbia locked them into 12-month contracts although they were told otherwise.
While state-mandated tax breaks provide customers with savings amounting to about 2 to 3 percent of their bill, Schneiderman says Columbia's prices more than wiped out those savings.Hundreds of customers in the Syracuse and Central New York area will receive, on average, a refund of $700 as a result of Attorney General Schneidermanâ??s settlement with Columbia Utilities.
Checks totaling nearly $2 million are in the mail to 2,700 New York customers.
Schneiderman gave tips for avoiding scams:
--Consumers not required to chose alternative suppliers
--Marketers can not pretend to contact you on behalf of a utility
--Marketers should identify which company they work for
--Beware of high pressure sales tactics
--Get savings offers in writing
--Do your own research and compare rates
Companies are required to provide you with a consumer bill of rights
You have 3 days to cancel without cost
(Information from the Associated Press was used in this report)