A University student reported an alleged scam to University Police and The Office of Off Campus and Commuter Student Affairs Sept. 23.
Jimmy Jencarelli said that a door-to-door salesman visited students in the Hill Section and made claims that he could provide students with discounted prices for their utilities bills if they switched to Respond Power LLC. The salesman asked students for their personal information as well as their utilities account information.
Some students took the salesman up on his offer and Jencarelli was concerned that the company was not legitimate.
The Director for Off Campus and Commuter Student Affairs, Jessica Adler Errington, researched the company and discovered that Respond Power, exists and is listed on the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) website.
Respond Power is a supplier of natural gas and electricity utilities that is based in Rockland County, New York.
According to the BBB website, “The BBB helps people find and recommend businesses, brands, and charities they can trust.” The BBB also sets standards for ethical business practices. Consumers can use the BBB website to identify trustworthy businesses.
Although Respond Power is listed on the BBB website, it is not accredited by the BBB and had 240 closed complaints within the last year.
The complaints on the BBB website about Respond Power expressed customer dissatisfaction with higher prices and misleading service. The BBB gave Respond Power an ‘F’ rating.
University Police investigated the situation and reported that salesman had a permit from the city of Scranton to go door-to-door.
Errington emailed off campus students to inform them of the suspicions report. She updated students about the issue after she researched the company and University Police spoke to the salesman.
According to Errington’s email, the company’s practices are legal but complaints on the BBB website show that its practices are “often misleading and may end up costing customers more.”
She said that students who provided the salesman with information should contact both Respond Energy and their current utilities company about the situation.
The most common utilities company in the Hill Section is PP&L. Errington contacted PP&L who said they have dealt with situations like this one before.
Errington reminds students the importance of using their judgment.
“If it seems too good to be true, it might be,” she said. “I strongly encourage students to use their judgment with these things. If somebody tries to tell you something is free it’s probably not … if someone is going door-to-door there might be a catch. Consider your utilities information similar [to your bank account information].”
If students living off campus did switch to Respond Power and wish to return to their previous utilities company, it is their responsibility to contact all parties involved to switch back to their old utilities provider.
The Off Campus Advisory Board, OCAB, will visit students living off campus Thursday. The meeting is considered a walk-in talk, and if students open their doors they will receive an important folder with information about off-campus safety, carbon monoxide precautions, utilities information and restaurant coupons. Students who talk with OCAB will be entered in a raffle for their house to receive a free meal from a downtown restaurant.