FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Fort Wayne resident Kim Montgomery recently made a mistake she wishes she could take back.
When a man wearing a Bolt Energy badge showed up at her front door and offered to take her monthly gas bill down to just $0.19, she signed up on the spot.
She did it through the man’s phone without seeing any terms of the deal, being shown any fine print, or even getting a confirmation email.
Montgomery claims she wasn’t even told any terms of the deal.
She wishes she would’ve realized in the moment that it was a deal too good to be true.
“And that’s where I messed up because I was like ‘Oh, that’s great,’ so I jumped on board and was ready to go with that,” Montgomery said.
Bolt Energy’s website says they’re a New York-based Company that serves Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and California. The company offers something it calls deregulation.
On the website, deregulation is described as follows:
“Instead of getting your energy directly from your utility, deregulation gives consumers the power to choose their energy supplier. When you switch to Bolt Energy, there is no disruption of service – your local utility will continue to deliver your natural gas, and you won’t notice any transition during the switching process. The rate you pay for your gas will be the rate you choose from Bolt Energy, your supplier. You will notice Bolt listed on your monthly bill as your energy supplier when you switch. It’s important to note that in case of emergency you will need to contact your utility.”
Montgomery signed up for Bolt Energy to supply her natural gas, even though NIPSCO was still the provider, something possible through NIPSCO’s CHOICE Program.
According to Montgomery, who shared screenshots of previous bills with WANE 15, she had never seen a monthly gas bill higher than $150.
Her December 2022 bill was $99.24.
Then, after signing up with Bolt Energy, her next NIPSCO bill had line items from Bolt Energy including a “delivery fee” and totaled $362.39.
“It was horrible. I was in shock. I pull up on my app, my NIPSCO app, to pay my bill and I saw $362 and I was like woah,” she said.
Montgomery called Bolt Energy to cancel, but said she was told she would have to pay through the next billing cycle. She told WANE 15 she also called NIPSCO and was told she could cancel and come back to just them.
Her next bill was also much higher than usual.
She said she takes full responsibility for her mistake, and reached out to 15 Finds Out in order to get the word out and warn people to not do what she did.
At the same time, she wishes NIPSCO would have stepped in somewhere throughout the process.
“There should be like something, like a red flag up telling people because I would’ve never done it, you know? And I’m pretty smart, but apparently, I wasn’t smart enough,” Montgomery said.
WANE 15 reached out to NIPSCO’s communications team to ask about how this was all possible and if they’re affiliated with Bolt Energy.
Additionally, we asked why they would work with Bolt Energy if it has an F rating on its Better Business Bureau profile.
The company is not BBB Accredited.
NIPSCO’s Communications Manager Tara McElmurry sent the following statement to WANE 15:
“NIPSCO’s Customer CHOICE Program is an optional, voluntary program that allows customers to purchase their natural gas supply from a supplier other than NIPSCO. If an alternative supplier is selected, NIPSCO continues to deliver reliable service, maintain the infrastructure, perform safety checks and respond to emergencies.
Before entering into any contract, NIPSCO encourages customers to review and understand the terms and conditions associated with a chosen supplier and to research the options and different pricing available to them.
Suppliers that meet creditworthiness and operational requirements may participate in the CHOICE Program, and Bolt Energy met those requirements before becoming certified for participation as a CHOICE supplier.
NIPSCO’s website provides helpful information about the CHOICE program in more detail, including supplier pricing information and a calculator to help customers compare their current NIPSCO bill and potential bill from a CHOICE supplier.
This winter heating season, many customers have experienced higher natural gas bills given the increase in overall commodity pricing for natural gas. However, there has been a recent decline in market prices for natural gas – due to increased supplies and production of natural gas combined with lower usage from milder winter weather – and customers may begin to experience the benefit of this change in the coming months ahead.
Natural gas prices charged by suppliers are set by a competitive market, meaning there is no guarantee customers will save money; however, they may be offered special pricing and incentives.
Learn more about the voluntary program at NIPSCO.com/Choice or OUCC: NIPSCO Natural Gas Choice Program (in.gov)“
WANE 15 spoke with BBB’s Northern Indiana Vice President Jan Diaz about this scenario.
Diaz couldn’t speak on Bolt Energy specifically because their profile and complaints are all through their New York officer, but she said utility scams are not uncommon, especially during the winter months.
Diaz said you should always be wary of anyone coming to your door for any product.
She said you should never trust an unsolicited visit, even if they look and seem legitimate.
“Do the research. If it is a legitimate offer, it is going to be on the utility company’s website,” Diaz said. “It’s not just going to be offered to a handful of people, it’s going to be offered to all the customers on that utility company, and typically the utility companies are not giving discounts. That’s a red flag.”
Diaz suggests going to bbb.org and searching businesses. She said if you can’t find anything there, search the business on google with the word ‘scam’ to see if there are any posts about them anywhere else.
WANE 15 reached out to Bolt Energy through its website, but did not hear back at the time of this report.