We wrote a blog on February 7th about our concerns of the alarming tactics that so-called competitive electricity suppliers are using to target the elderly in Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York.
Many of the vendors used aggressive sales schemes targeting our older Americans. In addition to our older adults, they targeted minorities and the low income population by promising lower electricity bills that never materialized. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey delivered a stunning comprehensive report that showed Massachusetts consumers paid $176.8 million more than they would have paid had they stayed with their traditional utility. Those kinds of numbers are enough to make anyone stop and question the ultimate purpose of these carriers.
As these developments started taking shape in the state of Florida, American Senior Alliance joined many others including the Florida Attorney General, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida House and Senate to file a brief with the Florida Supreme Court opposing the Florida “Energy Choice” amendment. We saw the drafted amendment as being one that was deceptive, confusing and bad for seniors. Even though the wheels of justice move at a snails pace, it was good to hear the members of the court during oral arguments agree by saying the 'Energy Choice' amendment was confusing and misleading.
Many older Americans have experienced hardships and setbacks from dealing with some of the unscrupulous sales tactics that competitive energy suppliers use to get seniors on board. Without crystal clear amendment language, it will be a challenge for many older Floridians to understand the misleading language and expectations.
Regardless as to who is right or wrong, we are concerned with the cost that senior citizens will have to pay for their electricity. With Massachusetts, Illinois and other states reporting consumers have paid millions more for electricity after they switched to competitive carrier's, is quite alarming to us. Florida Politics reported the “Energy Choice” amendment was being pushed by the proponents as a consumer-choice initiative and that it would benefit newer, start-up energy companies. By doing so, it would limit Florida Power and Light, Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric Company and Gulf Power's efforts for consumers. Many older adults have confidence in their traditional electricity provider and with the history of some of these so-called competitive companies making false promises in other states, seniors are quite skeptical.
The most quoted statement of the hearing came from Justice Lagoa when she indicated the ballot summary does not tell voters of the overall scheme to purchase electricity. Justice Lagoa said, “It's like, if you want to keep your doctor, you can until you can't.” This analogy drew a few laughs from those who vividly remember President Obama's memorable promise during the national health care debate, “You like your health care plan, you can keep your plan.” We all recall that promise could not be kept.
As the Supreme Court contemplates this issue, we hope the Justices keep our older Floridians in mind. Older adults seem to like things in plain language and in terms that are relatively easy to understand. Preferably, language that is straight forward and not misleading.