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FirstEnergy abuses its monopoly with CFL scheme

By Tyler S. Clark (Contact)

Published October 7, 2009

Let me get this straight: FirstEnergy wants to send me a product I don't need and didn't ask for, and it's going to have the audacity to charge me for it?! And PUCO (Public Utilities Commission of Ohio) approved the plan?

This is a dumb and unnecessary plan. Probably illegal, too. As if I don't already pay enough to utility companies, instead of helping me lower my bill, they're raising it.

Oh, I get that they're claiming to help me lower my bill by encouraging use of bulbs that reduce energy use. But what about the fact that we're already using CFLs (compact fluorescent bulbs) throughout our home, have extras in the closet and can buy them ourselves for far less than the approximately $21.60 The Vindicator estimates we'll pay to FirstEnergy for them?

The utility is abusing its monopoly to generate a profit from the forced purchase of unsolicited product.

Why didn't the utility include an offer to its customers on their invoice? "Check here and add $xx.xx to your payment to receive x CFL bulbs, which reduce energy consumption in your home."? Or they could have sent a separate offer letter.

As it is, they're going to get sued, and they'll end up losing money from the litigation process.

Fed up? Register your opinion with Ohio Consumers’ Council at (877) 742-5622. I know I will.

[Edit: 5:40pm. Ohio Consumers' Council will likely tell you to contact PUCO directly at  1-800-686-7826, or via its Web site at https://www.puc.state.oh.us/secure/PicForm/index.cfm ]

[Update: 6:00pm: Gov. Strickland tries to halt program http://www.vindy.com/news/2009/oct/07/breaking-news-strickland-call-puco-newswatch/ ] 


1bobhogue(102 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

This plan is both stupid and frightening. How in the world can they calmly announce that they are going to give us something we didn't ask for and then over-charge for it??

What's next? Will a furnace company show up at my door someday and say "we're here to install your new energy-efficient furnace" and then charge me thousands of dollars?

Whoever allowed this idea to move forward without killing it should be shown the door.

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2leaveusalone(103 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

Years ago, the credit card companies would send you unsolicited cards, and then begin charging you fees for them. The federal government put a stop to this practice - surely the same sort of logic would apply here?

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3valleyred(1103 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

I will deny them if they try to bring them to my residence.

Also, exclude 60 cents from your utility bill each month if this is not stopped.

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4GuytanoParks(6 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

I am outraged over this audacious scheme by First Energy not only because of the obvious (forcing consumers to accept the bulbs, then charge an extremely inflated price for them), BUT because of the dangers of MERCURY from broken CFL bulbs, not to mention the inevitable build-up of MERCURY in landfills and its effects on the environment (soil, air, water supply, etc.). *EVERYONE: DO AN INTERNET SEARCH ABOUT THIS AND REALIZE THE POTENTIAL CATASTROPHE IN THE MAKING!

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5GuytanoParks(6 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

FURTHERMORE, I DO NOT WANT THESE MERCURY-FILLED BULBS IN MY HOUSE for reasons other than safety issues. The light emitted from CFL bulbs is cold, bright and headache-inducing, unlike the warm glow emitted by incandescent bulbs. They don't work with dimmer switches. And what about chandeliers and other fixtures which feature decorative exposed bulbs? All in all, FIRST ENERGY'S SCHEME SUCKS!!!

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6Hortus(34 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

I bought my twisty bulbs at a "Dollar Store", then I realized that when they burn out, finding a place to dispose of them is non-existent. Mercury does not disintegrate like food substances, or clothing ( if made of cotton or hemp).

Like the pill pushing physicians. Next thing you know they will be standing on street corners ringing bells next to a yellow pot selling illegal drugs (no taxes). All they need is a bank to launder their dirty money.

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7Tugboat(759 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

The response I got from PUCO;

Thank you for contacting the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) regarding FirstEnergy's compact fluorescent light bulb program. The PUCO has received a large volume of calls and emails from customers like you, and I appreciate the opportunity to answer your questions.

On October 7, I received a letter from Gov. Ted Strickland asking that the PUCO postpone the light bulb program until such time as we can address questions raised by the governor, members of the Ohio General Assembly and FirstEnergy customers related to program details and costs. As a result, I have asked FirstEnergy to delay the start of the program until the PUCO can thoroughly assess the costs associated with it.

The PUCO scheduled oral arguments for October 28, 2009 at 1:30 p.m. to provide parties to the case an opportunity to present information about the light bulb program to the five PUCO commissioners. The meeting will be webcast live on the PUCO Web site at www.PUCO.ohio.gov .

The PUCO approved the light bulb program in September following agreement among the company and other organizations including the Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, your residential utility advocate. The program is part of FirstEnergy's effort to meet the ambitious electricity conservation goals included in Ohio's new energy law. By using less electricity, consumers can avoid having to pay higher energy costs in the future.

Under the program, FirstEnergy plans to provide each of its residential customers with two 23 watt, 10,000 hour compact fluorescent light bulbs. The high-quality ENERGYSTAR bulbs that the company is using for this program typically sell for around $5 each at area stores. On average, customers who install both bulbs provided by FirstEnergy will reduce their annual electricity consumption by about 160 kilowatt hours, saving approximately $10 each year.

Although the PUCO allowed FirstEnergy to implement the light bulb program, it did not approve any charges to appear on monthly bills. Reports in the media placed the cost to customers at sixty cents per month for three years, which equates to $21.60 over the life of the program. The PUCO did not approve these additional dollars nor did it receive a request from FirstEnergy to do so. It is also important to note that the PUCO approved the light bulb program for 2009 only.

Again, thank you for the chance to respond to your concerns. If you have additional utility-related concerns, please visit our Web site at www.PUCO.ohio.gov or contact us at (800) 686-PUCO (7826).


Alan R. Schriber

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8CompMan(162 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

Response from PUCO: a) " By using less electricity, consumers can avoid having to pay higher energy costs in the future." Not if First Energy is allowed to recoup the cost of engery not used. b)"..typically sell for around $5 each at area stores." This was a bulk purchase of 3.75 million bulbs. Present the invoice from mfg/distributor for examination and then look at who may have been enriched by non competitive bidding. The arrogance continues. We must be careful or we may have our trees 'trimmed' and charged by First Energy as well.

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9VINDYAK(1824 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

First Energy is still pushing this issue because one of their brilliant executives purchased 3.75 million bulbs a while back to sell to customers and employees. The plan was a huge flop, so they are trying to use this ploy to unload the bulbs. Problem is, consumers do not go out of their way to buy these expensive bulbs and now Walmart is selling them for half the price that First Energy is trying to sell them for.

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