By 1 May this year, Californian consumers will become the first US citizens that can buy electricity over the Internet.
Customers can obtain a free, customised energy price quote by visiting www.utility.com and answering a few brief questions. Utility.com then compares each customer?s existing rates with others available through its service, using up to the minute price data.
If they decide to sign up, consumers can also track how much energy they use on a daily basis, pay their bills over the Internet and obtain a customised appliance analysis with recommendations on how to further reduce energy costs.
Utility.com also promises to remotely control users? home thermostats, and hopes to expand the service to other home devices such as security systems in future.
Chris King, utility.com, chief executive, said: "Customers want a fast, easy, hassle free way to save money on their energy bills. At the same time, when they flick their light switch, they want the lights to go on. We guarantee the highest quality at the best prices."
The company was set up and funded by ecommerce Internet pioneer, Idealab!, which is also behind more than 20 businesses in various stages of development such as eToys, Free-PC, CitySearch and tickets.com.
Idealab! provides helps start up companies to create development strategies and provides them with financial support to introduce their products and services onto the marketplace.
Bill Gross, Idealab!?s founder and chief executive, said: "Eenergy is the new, hot area in ecommerce. Internet and energy deregulation are coming together at just the right time. Eighteen states have already opened up their energy markets to competition and this represents 48 per cent of the country's population."
But Tom La Berge, a utilities market analyst at Meta Group, said the big problem with most of these sites is that they do not focus on customers or ease of use issues as their main goals.
"They're not designed the way a commercial retail site is designed, so that customers can come in and personalise things and the site remembers who they are," he warned.
Utility.com was set up in 1998 in California, but plans to roll out services to Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Rhode Island by the middle of this summer, and to New Jersey, Nevada, Arizona and New York by the end of the year.
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