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D.C. power customers say Starion ripped them off

Friday - 7/12/2013, 5:30pm  ET

WASHINGTON - More than 100 D.C. residents say they thought they were getting a good deal when they signed on with third party power providers to cut their power bills. Instead, they told the D.C. Public Service Commission, they got ripped off.

Speaking through an interpreter, Angel Hernandez of Southeast D.C. said he switched from Pepco to Starion after he was told the company could help him cut his energy bills. Instead his bill went up from $50 to $200 after one year.

Dozens of others told the commission similar stories. Some say that people knocked on their door saying they were from Pepco, but offered them a better deal if they signed on as Starion customers. And all said they ended up paying more for their power in the end.

Trudy Martin, a D.C. resident, told the commission she is legally blind and has to have help checking over her bills. Her own daughter went to work for Starion and told Martin she could save money by going with Starion.

But after signing on with Starion, Martin found her bills were $110 more each month than they had been with Pepco. And she added, her daughter didn't get paid by Starion in the first six weeks of working for the Connecticut-based company, Martin says.

Rebekah Mason, an attorney with Legal Counsel for the Elderly, an affiliate of AARP, says what happened to her clients, many of whom testified, was a scam.

First, Mason says sellers misrepresented themselves. And then when clients tried to switch back to Pepco, they ran into difficulties.

Contacted by phone, Starion counsel Alexandrea Issac said that Starion has suspended all solicitation in the District until the commission's investigation is complete.

The commission held Friday's hearing and has been petitioned by the Office of the People's Counsel to open an investigation into the business practices of retail energy suppliers.

WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @kateryanWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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