I suppose by now you have seen the fliers and advertisements welcoming you as a new “owner” of Rappahannock Electric Cooperative. Congratulations, all around. Pretty nice ads, don’t you think? Here is some free advice: When someone welcomes you as a new owner of something you didn’t shop for, didn’t want, didn’t buy and had no hand in deciding that you were going to be a new owner, you might want to be a wee bit skeptical.
Have you received and read your new Residential Membership Service Contract with REC? I just did, and I have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
To start with, the first thing they want, and it is required, is your Social Security number. What century are they living in? Why do they have to have your Social Security number? With all the trouble people are having with identify theft, most businesses have stopped using Social Security numbers as customer identifiers. Why does REC have to have it? They don’t tell you, but they do tell you that it is required. Be skeptical. Give them your driver’s license number.
Did you get to the part about the connection fee yet? “A connection fee will appear on the first billing.” Connection fee? For what? I’m already connected. They’ve got to be kidding. And this is a good deal for us new owners of our very own cooperative? Like the president, I am thinking maybe we should start looking for someone’s (expletive deleted) to kick.
Keep reading. When you get to the part about the security deposit, stop and ponder that awhile. Here, you have been paying your bill, on time, for years, and now, a security deposit “will be required” unless satisfactory credit has been established with REC “for a period of at least 12 months.” Surely, they will take your history of on-time payments to the previous supplier as evidence of “satisfactory credit.” If they don’t, how could you possibly have established good credit with them for 12 months? I never heard of them until they made me a new owner! The sinking feeling persists.
There is other language in there that causes me to pause and wonder, but I suspect much of it is legal boilerplate, sell your soul to the devil, sign here Mr. New Owner, and I will provide you with this newfangled electricity you have been hearing so much about.
We have been told that REC is the new “distributor” of electricity for our area. Is it just me, or did we just add a middle man who produces nothing, who will buy the power from the people we used to buy it from, and sell it to us, at some profit margin? Why is this a good deal for the consumer, or, excuse me, the new owners? The sinking feeling persists.
Finally, when you read that contract, and decide that you want to call somebody and ask them about these things, search that contract really carefully, and see if you can find a phone number for the business that you now own. I’m sure there must be one in all the welcoming literature somewhere, but it sure ain’t on that contract.
For your sake and mine, I really hope I’m wrong. But that feeling in the pit of my stomach just will not go away. As for me, I think I better go tune up my portable generator. Good luck to us all.
Richard Brady can be reached at 540-675-3754 or firstname.lastname@example.org