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Beware of Contractors Claiming to Represent Utilities

January 31, 2011

Beware of Contractors Claiming to Represent Utilities

For Immediate Release: Monday, January 31

Consumer Alert: Beware of Contractors Claiming to Represent Utilities, Requesting Rights to Rebates

(ST. PAUL, MN) The Minnesota Department of Commerce urges consumers to be wary of contractors pitching their services as an affiliate of a utility and taking the rights to any rebate given to the homeowner by the utility.

Customers of Minnesota Energy Resources Co. (MER), a natural gas utility serving more than 211,000 customers in Minnesota, have reported that contractors with Idaho-based Rocky Mountain Insulation, are approaching homeowners in Eagan and other areas to solicit and inform them of insulation rebates offered by MER. Consumers have indicated to MER that they are then asked by the contractors to sign over their utility rebate directly to Rocky Mountain, claiming they will receive their rebate faster, through a "discount" to the cost of the insulation installation.  For example, MER said one customer was told that an $800 job would cost $300.

Prior to purchasing services from any one contractor, the Minnesota Department of Commerce highly recommends consumers obtain at least two bids for service. Consumers also should carefully inspect forms for any rebate they intend to apply for to ensure they are familiar with all requirements.
                                  
"Consumers should question pitches from these door-to-door salespeople," said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. "Don't be pressured to sign away your rebate rights on the spot. Instead, make sure it's a legitimate deal."

In the case of the MER rebates, consumers should be aware that the utility does not allow contractors to receive rebates on behalf of a MER customer. Rebates will be paid only to the person on the invoice/receipt and that person must match the name on the MER account or be listed as the property owner in the event of a landlord, the utility says.

"Minnesota Energy Resources (MER) has not contracted with any contractor to inform our customers about our insulation rebates while selling their services door-to-door," the utility said in a statement issued on its website. "Although a contractor may provide rebate information to customers, we have not authorized any insulation contractor to state they represent MER."

In addition to contacting their utility, consumers with energy-related questions may contact the Minnesota Department of Commerce's Energy Information Center at 651-539-1882 or toll-free at 1-800-657-3710 or via e-mail at energy.info@state.mn.us . Consumers should verify their contractor is licensed with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry by checking the state's searchable database at https://secure.doli.state.mn.us/licensing/licensing.aspx or by calling 651-539-1610.