Troubleshooters: What is 'slamming'? Here's how to protect yourself from the illegal practice

Richard Pomfret called the Action News Troubleshooters after getting an unusually high electric bill.

ByNydia Han and Heather Grubola via WPVI logo
Wednesday, September 7, 2022
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The illegal practice is called "slamming," and you may be a victim and not even know it yet.

GRENLOCH, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A company based in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, is accused of signing up consumers without their consent.

The practice is called "slamming," and you may be a victim and not even know it yet.

Richard Pomfret of Grenloch, Gloucester County called the Action News Troubleshooters after getting an unusually high electric bill around the middle of June for $477.

When he called PSE&G, he said he learned that unbeknownst to him he was buying energy from a third-party company called SunSea Energy.

But Pomfret said he distinctly recalls telling that salesman that came to his door that he did not want to switch energy providers.

"I said, 'No, I'm OK,' and he proceeded to leave," recalled Pomfret.

So he says when he realized the switch had been made anyway, he contacted SunSea Energy.

"She said, 'Sir, we do not scam people,'" recalled Pomfret. "And I said, 'Well, provide me with a signature, something that says I signed on with you.' She said, 'We can't.'"

Pomfret believes he was the victim of "slamming."

"When a third party supplier is switched without your consent, that's called 'slamming,' and it's illegal," explained Rebecca Mazzarella of PSE&G.

Here's how slamming is often perpetrated.

"They'll have a conversation with a customer and the customer will unknowingly give that protected information, their account information, to that third party supplier," said Mazzarella.

That supplier will then switch the customer without permission.

SunSea Energy claims Pomfret did knowingly enroll with its company over a year ago and his bill spiked because of increased usage. It also said it did offer him some money back after the Troubleshooters got involved.

But our story does not end there. The Troubleshooters have learned at least three states have taken action against SunSea, a big number considering SunSea only operates in four states and the District of Columbia.

In 2020, the New York Public Utilities Commission found "SunSea has had a significant history of slamming, misrepresentation, and other enrollment related complaints." And in May 2021, it ordered its customers be returned to their default service within 60 days.

In 2020, Maryland alleged SunSea Energy engaged in "unfair and deceptive marketing practices" and prohibited SunSea Energy from enrolling new customers and ordered it to provide refunds to all of its customers solicited by phone.

And New Jersey has received 75 complaints against SunSea Energy since January 2021, 43 of those for alleged "slamming." And as a result, the state has now requested SunSea "suspend marketing in New Jersey until all of its issues are addressed and resolved."

"I never signed on. I never OK'd this," said Pomfret.

SunSea did send Pomfret a refund of more than $500 after the Troubleshooters got involved.

Meantime, there are ways to prevent "slamming."

PSE&G said number one, do not share your account information with solicitors or people you don't know.

"It's really important that our customers keep that information private," said Mazzarella.

Also pay close attention to notices and your bills. PSE&G notifies customers in writing that their supplier has changed.

"And it'll give that customer an opportunity to rescind that change in their account," she said.

And be aware that while some third-party suppliers charge you directly on your PSE&G bill, others send out a separate invoice.

SunSea said it disagrees with the decisions in Maryland and New York and is working with New Jersey. It also says, "All customer concerns/queries are given utmost priority and are promptly investigated...and are addressed professionally with positive outcomes."

If you believe you've been "slammed," let the Troubleshooters know and alert the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.