As a business owner, you are usually run off your feet with the challenges of operating your business. The last thing you need to worry about is a legal problem. Many business people put off dealing with a legal problem because they don't know where to turn, don't have the time, or most often, are afraid of how much it will cost and how much time it will take.
Legal issues come in many forms:
· A customer failed to pay an account despite many promises. · You just received a letter from a government agency. · You just found out that your former manager has set up a competing business and has stolen your best customer and one of your key employees. · You have just been sued for $100,000. · Someone told you that one of your standard form contracts won't stand up in court and you are worried about it. · You have a dispute with your landlord. · You have a problem with a US or European customer. · Your business has been defamed on the internet. · You just found that your warehouse manager has been sexually harassing a female employee. · An employee is damaging your business but threatens to sue if you fire him. You are not sure how to handle it. · You are involved with a Workplace Safety Insurance claim.
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg of the kinds of legal issues business people run into frequently.
Tip #1 - Seek out legal help at the first sign of a problem
Suppose a competitor has been passing off its business under your name and it's costing you customers and sales but it's hard to estimate the amount. Unless you act promptly, it may be too late to seek an injunction from the Court. If you think you have a claim against another party under a contract, a limitation period begins to run from the time the contract is breached and usually expires two years later. It's not a good idea to leave the claim to the last minute.
If you have an issue with an employee who is working unacceptably, it's important to develop a legal strategy as early as possible. The longer you wait, the more it may cost your business.
The short point here is that it is important to seek advice as soon you detect a problem and before anything has been done to make it worse. Crisis management is always more expensive and time-consuming than early response.
Tip #2 - Have a team of lawyers to call on when you need them.
Every business should have a team of on-call lawyers. This is less expensive or complicated than it sounds. All you need are the telephone numbers and email addresses of trusted corporate, employment law and litigation lawyers. Depending on the nature of your business, you may also need an intellectual property lawyer, who deals with trademarks, patents and copyright. You may even need a tax lawyer because not all tax issues can be solved by an accountant.
If the amount of your legal dispute is very small, such as a claim or complaint by a customer for $1,000 or less, it will be uneconomic to hire a lawyer. Fortunately, there are other helpful resources. The BBB has a dispute resolution process which permits BBB businesses and their customers to resolve disputes by arbitration or mediation. You don't need a lawyer and the only cost is a small administration fee. More information about this process is available on the BBB website.
If your case is in the Small Claims Court ($10,000 or less), you might need a paralegal who specializes in these kinds of cases. Paralegals are now regulated by the Law Society but they are not lawyers and they are not a substitute for an experienced lawyer.
Tip #3 - Learn what to expect when a dispute arises.
As a business person, you have learned that success is often the result of building relationships. The relationships you build with your lawyers can be just as important to your business success as the ones you have with your customers, suppliers, banker and insurance broker. A relationship with your lawyer built on mutual trust and respect will save you many sleepless nights over the years and probably make or save you a lot of money.
There are several ways to find good lawyers for your business:
Ask business associates or relatives if they have someone to recommend. If you get a recommendation, find out more about the firm and the lawyer by using some of the research methods below. · The internet is a very useful resource for finding a lawyer but you have to be careful. Any lawyer can list with various online legal directories. Anyone can have a flashy website. You have to move past the flash to find the substance.
When looking for a lawyer on the internet, look for someone who has experience in the field you require. The first name on a Google search may not be the best choice. Some lawyers have written extensively about the law. This is a useful indicator of expertise and standing in the legal community.
Some lawyers list cases they have been involved in on their websites. Broad litigation experience in complex business matters over many years is a good indicator of competence.
The Law Society of Upper Canada (Ontario, Canada) has a lawyers' referral service. The service provides a name but you have to check the details out yourself. · The Law Society certifies specialists in several areas of practice. Certification as a specialist signals that the lawyer has achieved a higher standard of experience in his/her area but certification isn't mandatory. Many competent lawyers have long experience in a field without applying for certification. You have to decide if this is important to you.
· If your problem is outside Ontario, find a local lawyer first. Many firms have networks with lawyers globally and are able to refer to lawyers in the USA or other countries. Refers between colleagues are often more effective.
When you call, don't expect the lawyer to solve your business problem over the telephone. The first discussion is for the lawyer to identify whether s/he can represent you and for you to assess whether the lawyer appears to have the skills to deal with your problem. If you have a legal problem the lawyer believes his/her firm can resolve, an office meeting will be arranged.
In business matters, lawyers customarily charge a consultation fee for the first office meeting. At the meeting, the lawyer will give preliminary or urgent advice and develop a go-forward strategy. The lawyer may be able to give a partial fee estimate and will ask for a retainer to cover some of the work. No lawyer can guarantee the outcome. At this early stage, there are usually a lot of unknown matters. While the lawyer may be able to give you a partial fee estimate in a litigation matter, it's impossible to say with accuracy how much it will cost. It depends on too many unknown factors.
It will be then up to you to decide whether or not to hire the lawyer to represent you further. The decision you make will depend on your sense of confidence in the lawyer. Has the lawyer listened to you? Have your questions been answered? Does the lawyer appear to understand your problem? Has the lawyer presented the risks and downsides of your case? Every case has risks and costs. Beware of a lawyer who tells you only what you want to hear without assessing the strengths of the opposing party's case.
Some lawyers will accept a monthly or annual retainer which entitles the client to telephone advice a few times a month. More complicated issues require separate engagements.
Tip #4 - The least expensive lawyer is unlikely to be the best person to handle your legal problem
Consider this scenario: you are looking for a lawyer for a complicated lawsuit. You call Mr. Jones, who answers on the first ring. You tell your story, which has many facts the opposite party disputes. Mr. Jones says, "You have a great case. I'm sure you're going to win." When you ask how much it will cost, Mr. Jones says "Don't worry, you won't have to pay me anything unless you win. Just come on down to my office and we'll get started."
Beware of any lawyer who tells you this. While Ontario lawyers are permitted to charge their fees based on contingency, i.e. a percentage of the result, this type of fee arrangement is only rarely applicable in business cases. It never occurs when facts are in dispute, recovery is uncertain or if the amount is small.
When you retain a lawyer, you need a trustworthy advisor, who will point out the weaknesses of your case as well as the strengths. A litigation lawyer who is waiting by the phone for your call and tells you exactly what you are hoping to hear may be too hungry or too inexperienced to manage your case. He may be in over his head and will bail out as soon as your case takes a negative turn. By then, your legal situation may have worsened. It will be more expensive and perhaps impossible to repair it.
Even worthwhile cases require careful analysis and risk assessment. An experienced litigation lawyer will typically do his by for fees on an hourly basis plus GST and any out-of-pocket expenses necessary for your case.
Good litigation lawyers are often in court, at mediation or other litigation procedures, at meetings or discovery. However, good litigation lawyers always call or respond by email within 24 hours. In case of urgency or vacation, the lawyer will arrange for someone in the office to contact you.
Tip #5 - Prevention is better and much less expensive than litigation.
Legal problems are like computer crashes --- they are bound to occur, it's just a matter of time. Unlike computer crashes, some lawsuits can be avoided. Often, businesses owners deal with legal matters only when a crisis arises. They look for the least expensive lawyer to draft their leases, contracts, corporate and employment agreements without regard to skill, competence and experience.
Sometimes, business owners avoid legal steps like failing to make a shareholder agreement, failing to file a trademark application or failing to prepare a non-competition and non-solicitation agreement with a key employee. When served with a lawsuit, they ignore or tear the papers up in anger. These business owners will be caught short when the inevitable occurs. While litigation or arbitration may still occur when there are written agreements in place, you will be in a far more secure position if you have taken precautionary steps before the dispute occurs. If you respond to correspondence and legal papers promptly, you will be better protected than if you ignore them.
Competent legal advice is available for matters such as corporate organization, leases, the wording contracts and other documents you use in your business, partnership and shareholder agreements, your relationships with your employees, your company's trade names, logos and website, your regulatory compliance, your risk management and litigation prevention techniques. It's all important to arrange legal affairs to ensure that your personal liability is limited in the case of a claim against your business.
Ensure that the legal issues affecting your business are in good order. This is likely to save you a lot of money and grief in the future. You might even consider having a legal audit or a "business legal checkup". We plan to write about this topic in a future article in this newsletter. Preventative legal advice may be expensive but it is just as important as fire insurance.
Tip #6 -- Don't assume that 'going to court' means 'going to trial'
If you haven't been involved in litigation before, you may not appreciate that more than 90% of cases settle before trial. While a trial (or even an appeal) is not always avoidable, lawyers use techniques to try to resolve cases at earlier stages. Business people are looking for certainty and to limit expense and exposure.
It's never a bad idea to negotiate a settlement with the opposing party but the timing and approach will depend on the case. It is best to negotiate from a position of strength. This may mean holding off negotiations until enough facts and documents have been disclosed to favour your position.
Mediation is another technique lawyers use to achieve settlement before trial. Mediation involves a neutral mediator, who is usually an experienced lawyer, acceptable to all parties. The parties and the lawyers prepare briefs to explain their positions to the mediator. On the mediation date, after an opening session, the parties retire to separate rooms. The mediator will "shuttle" between the parties until an agreement is worked out or an impasse is declared. This process produces a high rate of settlement even in very complicated cases.
Tip #7 - Understand the risks of the litigation process: Why do lawyers emphasize settlement?
Even if you have an airtight case, your lawyer will still recommend settlement. Lawyers assess risk every day. Even the most airtight case could have problems at trial. The judge may prefer the evidence of the opposing party over yours. The other party's expert witness may be more persuasive than yours. These are just two of many possibilities. A trial is always a last resort.
Another good reason to settle is that even if you win at trial, the case may not be over because
The legal costs awarded by the court to a successful party are only a partial recovery of the legal costs payable to your lawyer. · If you lose at trial or if the opposing party does better in court than their settlement offer, you will have to pay a portion of their legal costs. · There may be an appeal which could delay payment for two years or longer.
Until a final judgment is granted, a defendant is rarely prevented from dealing with his property - unless the property is the subject of the lawsuit (or some other exceptional situations).
The judgment may be unenforceable. The opposing party may be insolvent or go bankrupt. You might not collect anything. · The defendant may conceal his assets or transfer them to family members to make the debt difficult to collect. A separate lawsuit may be necessary to find the defendant's assets or to declare the fraudulent transfer void.
The defendant may have assets outside Ontario. A lawyer in the jurisdiction where defendant's assets are located may have to be retained to collect the judgment.
A settlement involves a resolution both parties can live with. If the case involves the payment of money, there won't be a settlement unless payment is made.
Even with these concerns, some cases can't be settled. The positions of the parties may be so far apart that a trial is necessary. As the case progresses, you and your lawyer will have to revise and update your strategy and estimate the legal cost and risk of each stage of the case. Keep in mind that the opposing party is dealing with similar risk assessment and cost issues as you are.
Tip #8 -- Be a good client.
From a lawyer's perspective, a good client is a business person who does the following:
Presents all the facts of the case fairly without exaggeration or deception. Tell your lawyer everything; not just the facts that help you. The rest of the story always comes out and usually with adverse consequences. · Considers the lawyer as a trusted advisor and advocate.
Has a well-organized set of relevant documents.
Provides other documents and information promptly when requested.
Accepts that every case has weaknesses and works with the lawyer to develop a strategy to minimize the weaknesses.
Recognizes that the lawyer cannot guarantee the outcome but can only provide effective advocacy to produce the best result, often as a result of negotiation or mediation.
If an examination for discovery or trial is required, takes the time to prepare to testify.
Asks for clarification on all matters that are unclear.
Understands that in litigation matters, it is impossible to predict the fees accurately but that the lawyer will gladly provide estimates of imminent steps in the case.
Pays retainers when asked and settles interim accounts promptly when rendered.
Considers the lawyer's recommendations carefully and provides reasonable instructions.
One of our firm's clients is a technology business which started as a family operation and has grown to the point that its brand is now accepted and recognized globally. Our client's president knows hows to get the most out of his professional advisors. He is always respectful, trusting of professionalism, intelligence, experience and competence. He is prompt in responding to requests for information, appreciative of good advice and excellent service. He works hard but he usually has a happy and cheerful attitude.
Our client expects is professional advisors to have the same enthusiasm for their work as he does for the operations of his business. And another small matter: our client pays every professional account within 48 hours of receipt. He believes that if he had to challenge his lawyer or accountant's bill, the professional relationship is not a healthy as it should be. Our client expects fair treatment, excellent service, sound advice, creative strategy, experienced advocacy and determined, no-nonsense negotiations. And he gets all of them in spades! A lot of business people who are dissatisfied with their professional advisors could learn a lot from him.
These tips offer no assurance that your legal matter will turn out exactly as you expect. However, by following our suggestions, the resolution of your business dispute is likely to be a less expensive, less time-consuming and less stressful experience and possibly more successful. Keeping your business legal affairs in good order permits you more time to focus on making your business flourish.
Igor Ellyn, QC, CS and Orie Niedzviecki are partners of ELLYN LAW LLP Business Litigation and Arbitration Lawyers, a Toronto law firm, established specializing in dispute resolution for small and medium businesses and their shareholders.
I hate to see people taken advantage of and I hate to see people suffer after choosing the wrong lawyer. Maybe those are two of the reasons that I became a lawyer, so that I could do something about those situations. I have seen clients who had lawyers neglect their cases for not just weeks but years. I have heard complaints about lawyers who would not tell the client what was going on with their cases, but would bill the client when the client called to ask what was happening. I have heard complaints about lawyers who took money from clients without a clear understanding of the expectations on either side.
I also hate to have to clean up a mess made by another lawyer. It is much easier to assist a client and avoid potential problems than it is to repair damage from choosing the wrong lawyer. I have seen poorly drafted prenuptial agreements and separation agreements. I have had to step in to repair and finish a botched annulment. I have had to step in to repair and finish a botched divorce.
One woman's tale of woe especially comes to mind. Around the office, we call her story "The Tale of the Nine Year Divorce." She had hired an attorney to defend a divorce action here in Virginia and to counter sue for divorce. She was living out of state at the time and paid the attorney a significant retainer. There was no written contract. The lawyer she had chosen seemed to be afraid of the opposing counsel and did nothing to move the case forward. In fact, the lawyer allowed the case to be dismissed from the court docket for inaction.
Cases are not dismissed on this basis without prior notice to counsel of record. The lawyer did not notify his client of the potential dismissal. It was not until the court notified her of the dismissal that she found out what had happened. The client was in an automobile accident, as a result of which she was hospitalized and undergoing multiple surgeries. She trusted her lawyer to look out for her interests; she did not know or understand what should have been taking place and had no idea until she received notification from the court that the case had been dismissed.
When the client contacted the lawyer, he had the case reinstated. However, it was not until the opposing attorney withdrew from the case, that the lawyer acted to put forward the interests of his client. Meanwhile, the lawyer allowed the woman's husband to abscond, fleeing the jurisdiction of the court, with the bulk of the marital assets. The lawyer did get an order of spousal support, but did nothing effective to collect or enforce the spousal support order against the defendant who was not paying.
In fact, the lawyer allowed tens of thousands of dollars of arrears to accumulate. Meanwhile, the lawyer asked for and got a court award of $10,000 of attorney's fees from the absconded husband. When the lawyer realized that the husband had spent the money and the attorney fee award would not be easily collected, he began to demand money from the client. Being disabled and not having received a penny of the support award, she was unable to pay the lawyer and he withdrew from her case at the final hearing. Needless to say all of this left the woman with a bad taste in her mouth when it comes to lawyers.
The woman heard about me and came to me despite having had a bad experience, because she was in need of help. We were able to finish up the divorce and property division, which had been started 9-10 years prior and we began enforcement of the support award by attaching social security and retirement income due her husband.
Through our efforts collection began and an income stream began to flow to the client. We were also able to successfully defend the woman from an attempt by her husband to stop support payments and at the same time recover some of the items of personal property which had been awarded to her by the court. The woman still had to defend herself from a law suit brought by the lawyer who was demanding over $10,000 and had not credited the retainer which the woman paid at the beginning of the representation.
I have written this article in hopes that it may help you avoid the costly mistakes of the Nine Year Divorce.
There are two areas where people make mistakes. The first area is in selecting the lawyer and the second area is mistakes made after selecting the lawyer.
HYPE IN LAWYER ADVERTISING
COMBINED EXPERIENCE HYPE. Law firms that tout "*** years of combined experience" are probably trying to magnify or enhance their credentials. If you are looking for a lawyer with experience, this hype does little to inform you of the actual experience of the individual lawyers. My question is if the lawyers each have significant years of experience, why don't they say how much experience each lawyer has? Why? Because it sounds grander to use the combined figure. Even an ant looks like a mighty monster under a magnifying glass.
LAUNDRY LIST HYPE. Law firms that have a laundry list of services may not be the best choice for your situation. Remember the proverb "Jack of all trades, master of none"? You can certainly be a jack of all trades, but can you be a master at all trades? How much of the practice of the firm is devoted to your type of case? For example, does the law firm (and the particular lawyer) you are considering devote a significant portion of the practice to the type of case for which you are seeking representation?
Perhaps you are looking at one stop shopping and it is important to you to find a lawyer or law firm that can handle multiple matters for you. Then you may want to ask if the lawyer handles each of those areas, but you should also ask how much of the practice is devoted to each area and how much experience the lawyer has in each area. Are there client testimonials available for each area? Think carefully and decide if it may be worthwhile to seek out a more specialized practice for each of your problems.
BIGGER IS BETTER HYPE When it comes to law firms, bigger is not necessarily better, much less the best. If you want personal attention, you may find that a medium sized or smaller firm will be more attentive. Law firms that have group photographs with all of the clerks and secretaries are trying to look bigger to compete with mega firms with dozens or hundreds of lawyers. But in the final analysis size does not matter; bigger is not better than smaller, nor is smaller better than bigger. What does matter is personal care and attention. This is something that you will have to ask about and be sensitive to as you call on various lawyers and law firms in your search for the right lawyer and law firm for you and for your case.
IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE... [CHOOSING A LAWYER BASED ON COST] Cheapest is seldom the best. On the other hand, just because something costs a lot does not make it better than something that costs less. Would you choose a doctor or dentist based on how cheap his services are? No, not if you can help it. You want the best doctor, the most attentive doctor, the smartest doctor, the most knowledgeable doctor at the best price. Cost may be a legitimate factor in choosing a lawyer but it should be the last and least significant factor. Cost certainly should not override other factors such as ability, experience, reputation within the legal community and client testimonials. Can you afford cheap legal advice that may be bad or wrong?
ASSUMING AND NOT CHECKING Related to falling for hype in lawyer advertising is assuming and not checking. Don't believe the yellow page ads. All lawyers are not equal. You should investigate any lawyer or law firm before engaging them. Inquire about his/her reputation in the legal community. Check out what clients have to say about the lawyer and the law firm. ASSUMING PRE-PAID LEGAL IS THE WAY TO GO. Don't assume that pre-paid legal is the way to go. Just because you have pre-paid legal available for use does not mean that you should use them. The best lawyers are seldom members of a pre-paid legal service panel. You certainly should not allow the pre-paid attorney to represent you without first investigating him/her.
Of course, you may not need the best lawyer, but you should at least want to insure that the lawyer you choose is a good lawyer for the matter at hand. You should also realize that a lawyer may be a good lawyer for some matters and not for others. This is where knowledge, experience and ability must be weighed and examined. Does the firm or attorney you are considering take a "no holds barred" approach to family law? If so, be prepared for lengthy and expensive proceedings.
You should investigate a pre-paid lawyer as diligently as you would any other lawyer and ask the same questions. If the lawyer does not devote a significant portion of his/her practice to the area of law involved in your matter, you should look elsewhere. If the lawyer does not have a good reputation within the legal community, you should look elsewhere. If the lawyer cannot point to articles written or cases won, if he/she cannot point to client testimonials, you should look elsewhere.
Once you have done your homework and selected the lawyer and law firm you believe will best serve your needs and protect your needs and protect your interests, you could still make costly mistakes in hiring your lawyer.
MISTAKES AFTER YOU HAVE SELECTED A LAWYER
NOT ASKING FOR A WRITTEN FEE AGREEMENT While oral contracts are recognized at law, enforcement can be problematic and requires proof of the essential terms. Without a written fee agreement, how can you be sure that you and your lawyer have truly reached an understanding? Basic contract law requires that there be a "meeting of the minds" to create a contract. It speaks of "an offer" and "an acceptance". A written fee agreement serves to clarify and solidify the expectations of the client and the attorney. The agreement should spell out the responsibilities of each party and the parameters of the representation. This protects you and your lawyer. Written fee agreements are recommended by the Virginia State Bar and by the American Bar Association. If your lawyer does not bring up the subject of a written fee agreement or representation agreement, you should do so.
NOT ASKING TO READ A DOCUMENT BEFORE YOU SIGN IT. Whether it's the fee agreement, a lease, an affidavit or a pleading, just because the document is presented to you by your lawyer, does not mean you should not read it carefully and ask questions about anything you do not understand. If the document is not correct or contains errors or omissions, you should bring those to the attention of your lawyer.
FAILURE TO ASK FOR A COPY OF WHAT YOU SIGN. You should always ask for a copy of a document that you are asked to sign. In our office, when we are retained, we give the client a pocket folder with copies of the fee agreement, office policies and, in appropriate cases, the client divorce manual.
FAILURE TO KEEP COPIES. You should have a safe place to keep important documents. If documents are from an attorney, they are important and worth keeping, at least until the case or matter is concluded and in some instances longer than that. The fact of the matter is, if you don't keep the copies, you may not be able to get duplicates later. Believe it or not, I have had several clients over the years who were victims of unscrupulous lawyers who destroyed documents to avoid having to produce them when a conflict arose with the client. One actually shredded file documents in front of the client. Aside from those issues, most lawyers do not retain client files forever. In our office, we routinely shred aging closed files to make room for new files. We advise clients to retrieve anything they might want or need from their file when it is closed, because it is subject to destruction.
FAILURE TO ASK QUESTIONS. You should ask a lawyer you are considering who he/she would hire for a case such as yours. You should ask the lawyer you are considering questions about his/her experience and credentials. Can they point to satisfied clients who have given testimonials of their experiences with the lawyer and law firm? Who besides the lawyer will be working on your case? How do they handle telephone calls? How do they charge? What does the lawyer expect of you? How will he/she keep you informed of progress on your case? How does he/she plan to present your case/defense? You should ask questions about court procedures or other procedures pertaining to your case or legal matter. If there are terms that you do not understand, ask your lawyer to explain them to you.
FAILURE TO STAY IN TOUCH. If you move or change employment or telephone numbers, your lawyer may not be able to reach you to communicate about your case. It is important to keep your lawyer abreast of changes in your circumstances, employment and residence contact information.
FAILURE TO PROVIDE A CELL PHONE NUMBER. This is related to the failure to keep in touch. Depending on the nature of the representation, your lawyer may need to be able to reach you quickly. It is frustrating to the lawyer not to be able to reach you and it can adversely impact your case. You should take steps to insure that your attorney is able to reach you and speak with you promptly or within an hour or two. For example, suppose your lawyer is engaged in a negotiation in your behalf. If he/she is unable to reach you at a critical point in negotiation, it could result in "blowing" the negotiation or losing the deal.
In today's world of instant communication, there is no reason not to facilitate communication with your lawyer.
What mistakes could have been avoided in the Tale of the Nine Year Divorce?
INVESTIGATION-The client could have investigated the lawyer before hiring him. She could have googled him. She could have interviewed more than one lawyer. She could have asked another lawyer who was the best divorce lawyer for a contested case with allegations of adultery and property issues. She could have asked the lawyer for client testimonials or client expressions of their experiences with him.
WRITTEN FEE AGREEMENT-She could have asked for a written fee agreement and a receipt for her retainer. Or she could have written the lawyer a letter setting out her understanding of the representation and of the fee charged or to be charged in the matter and the application of the retainer which she had paid, retaining a copy of the letter for her file.
QUESTIONS-She could have asked the lawyer how he charges and how much he would estimate the case would cost. She could have asked if he had experience with opposing counsel and if he was afraid of her or if he felt confident he could handle the case, despite opposing counsel. She could have asked what to expect and she could have asked about the procedure in a contested Virginia divorce.
She could have asked the lawyer what strategy he planned to use to defend her and how he planned to take her case on the offensive. She could have asked the lawyer how he planned to keep her abreast of developments and progress in her case and how long he estimated it would take to get to final hearing in the case. She could have asked him how he planned to enforce the spousal support order and what could be done to collect the money.
When the lawyer got a court order of attorney's fees from her husband for $10,000, she could have questioned the lawyer about what he was doing and why. She could have asked for an itemization of charges and whether or not she would be responsible if her husband did not pay.
She could have consulted another attorney or the State Bar to ask about what was going on and what rights she had as a client.
COMMUNICATION - She could have made a greater effort to remain in touch with the lawyer and to keep him abreast of changes in her circumstances, such as her accident and being out of work due to disability from the accident. When time passed without hearing from the lawyer, she could have telephoned the lawyer. When the lawyer failed to return her telephone calls, she could have scheduled an appointment to see him or written him documenting his failure to return her telephone call and asking for a status report and what the next step would be.
When the lawyer began to demand money from the woman, she should have responded to the bills and letters in writing with questions about the charges. She could have demanded an itemization of charges and an accounting of the retainer which she had paid.
SECOND OPINION - When she became dissatisfied with the progress of her case, she could have sought a second opinion and considered changing counsel before the lawyer moved to withdraw from the case, or at least before the lawyer filed suit over the fees. In fact, when the case was dismissed by the court for inaction, she should have sought a second opinion and considered changing counsel and asking for the return of her retainer.
As gas prices continue to rise throughout the nation, rumors of oil conspired wars loom in the Middle East, and the lingering threat of human-induced harmful global warming becomes a reality; it is clear that an alternative form of energy must be implemented soon to replace the nation’s addiction to oil. While oil is used for many different forms of energy, vehicles used for transportation are responsible for a large portion of the oil consumption in the United States. Therefore, the need to convert our gas-guzzling autos to run off of alternative forms of energy is the first step to wining our nation off of oil usage.
Over the past decade, there have been several attempts to produce alternative forms of energy which can be converted to power by our every day drivers. These attempts have encompassed everything from solar to alcohol powered vehicles; however, due to lack of technology most of these non-greenhouse emitting vehicles have remained as nothing more than a dream. However, electric vehicles proves to be the exception as it has already been mass produced in 1996 by one of the Nations leading auto manufactures.
The first initial push that drove automobile producers to create an electric car came from the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The CARB mandated that 2% of the cars sold in California by 1998 must be considered "Zero Emission Vehicles"(ZEVs). After the 1998 dead line, new requirements were made by the CARB, mandating that by 2003, 10% of all automobiles sold in California must be ZEVs (Motavalli, 1997).
General Motors was one of the first companies to meet the CARB’s new mandates for the first zero emission vehicle. They did this with the release of the first electric vehicle known as the EV1 (Electric Vehicle 1). Conversely, soon after General Motors started, they abandoned the popular project joining the Federal Government in successfully suing the State of California to remove the CARB zero emissions requirements.
Hence, despite the large need, want and availability of the mass production of electric vehicles—they are still not being produced due to the overwhelming influence of oil driven industries and the Federal Government’s lack of intervention.
Global warming has been the center of environmental debate since 1896 when Swedish chemist, Svante Arrhenius, hypnotized that the build up of carbon dioxide, produced by burning fossil fuels, such as coal, would increase the temperature on the planet (Clemmitt, 2006). Since the establishment of Arrhenisus’ theory on global warming over 100 years ago, scientific advancements, and new technologies have re-enforced his theory. However, the most convincing evidence of global warming is the actual changes that are occurring throughout the globe.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, the global temperature has increased by one degree Fahrenheit (Clemmitt, 2006). While one degree may not seem worthy of alarm, a change in one degree can cause a devastating domino effect that can lead to the demise of the entire planet. For example, the one-degree increase in the global temperature has caused many of the worlds glaciers to begin to melt. Glacier melting is currently affecting Montana’s Glacier National Park, where nearly 120 glaciers have melted since 1910. As glaciers, such as those in Montana’s Glacier National Park, melt they cause the sea levels throughout the world to rise in both temperature and depth. Although the negative effects of melting glaciers and rising sea levels may not seem detrimental, the increase temperatures from global warming are responsible for “… providing added fuel to growing storms and hurricanes, making them more intense” (Lener, 2006). The overwhelming deadly aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has been directly attributed to global warming. Rising global temperatures are also being blamed for the European heat wave of 2003 that was responsible for killing 25,000 people (Clemmitt 2006). The list of increasing powerful and frequent natural disasters continues to grow as the globe continues to heat up.
The director of Climate and Global Dynamics Division at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, James Hurrell, told the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee recently that, “The climate is changing, and the rate of change as projected exceeds anything seen in nature in the past 10,000 years” (Clemmitt, 2006). With the deadly effects of global warming already unfolding throughout the world, the solution must be implemented immediately.
Currently, green house gasses are the highest they have been in 75,000 years. In addition, human emitted carbon dioxide is at the highest levels it has ever been in the history of man (Clemmitt, 2006). Hence, it is hard to ignore the theory, of human induced-global warming, when green house gas concentrations are parallel to the large amount of human produced carbon dioxide. It is also hard to ignore a panel of nearly 25,000 scientists gathered together in 2001 to form the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The team of scientist reported “That most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is attributable to human activities” (Cooper 2001). They furthered their argument by predicting that the Earth’s overall temperature could climb up to eleven degrees Fahrenheit, under the worst-case conditions, if the amount of green house gases continue to rise (Cooper 2001). If this takes place scientists have projected that “such a rise could inundate many low-lying islands and eventually threaten such areas as the New York City borough of Manhattan and Miami Beach” (Griffin, 1992). The green house gases responsible for current and future disasters are made-up of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone. The increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are the direct result of the burning of fossil fuels and the source of most of the danger.
As show in Figure 1, nearly 1/3 of the increased levels of carbon dioxide can be contributed to transportation ( Cooper 2001).
Carbon dioxide is one of the byproducts that are produced by the burning of gasoline within the combustible engine found in all cars and trucks on the road today.
In other words, one of the solutions to preventing further global warming is to either stop transportation all together or implement an alternative form of energy, which does not produce carbon dioxide, to power our vehicles. Obviously, the economy and the human way of life would cease to exist if we stopped transportation altogether. However, the obvious decision to use an alternative form of fuel to save the earth is rejected by major oil companies and other related industries to keep Americans addicted to oil in order not to loose their $300 billion dollar a year industry (Motavalli, 1997).
The Kyoto Protocol
Recently, measures have been taken to curb the production of carbon dioxide, not only on a state level with the “Zero-Emissions Law” passed by the California State Legislature, but these efforts are also seen on a global level as well. In 1997, more than 150 countries met in Kyoto Japan to sign the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty that required signing countries to reduce green house gasses to 5% below 1990 levels by 2005 through the implementation of taxes and laws. The United States, responsible for emitting the largest amount of green house gases, vowed to cut their share by 7% under the Clinton administration. As the deadline for the Protocol was set for February of 2005, the United States, under the Bush Administration, has since changed their stance stating that there is a lack of scientific evidence to support global warming (Cooper, 2001). Bush was also quoted by saying it [the Kyoto Protocol] shackled the U.S. economy(Cooper, 2005). In addition to the Bush administrations lack of support to the Kyoto Protocol, the U.S. Senate and the House of representatives are also opposed to the treaty (Clemmitt, 2006). One can only speculate that the rejection of the Kyoto Protocol and California’s zero emissions laws are just two examples of a larger picture: the oil and auto industries massive influence on the United States Government.
The Oil Industries Influence in the Government
The WSPA (Western States Petroleum Association) is made up a coalition of oil companies that are located in the western United States including: Mobile, Shell, Chevron and Arco. The WSPA is also one of the top five lobbyist employers in California. Therefore, much of the lobbying done in California is influenced from the major oil companies. Two of the major activist seen in California State’s legislature is know as CAUCA (Californians Against Utility Company Abuse) and CHAT (Californians Against Hidden Taxes). Both of these lobbyists are funded in part by the WSPA (Motavalli, 1997). The executive director of the “Grass Roots” lobby CHAT, Linda Mangels, even said, “I believe most, if not all of our funding comes from WSPA --that's no secret,” (Motavalli, 1997). With such a powerful influence in the state legislature the WSPA has declined how much money it has invested in the campaign against the electric car mandates such as the Zero Emissions Mandate by the CARB and the CETC. (California Electric Transportation Coalition).
In addition to the massive influence of the WSPA, the coming fourth electric vehicle has also been hit hard by the AAMA (American Automobile Manufactures Association). The AAMA has done its own lobbying campaign against the electric vehicle. In six months, the auto industry spent around $500,000 to campaign against the electric car mandates (Motavalli, 1997). While that number may not seem that impressive, it represents nearly four times the amount of money the California Electric Transportation Coalition has available each year.
In a recent study named the Pollution Politics, done between the years 1991-1995, revealed that nearly $34 million dollars in public policy was spent by oil companies and automakers to influence public opinion against the electric car mandates. Of the $34 million spent, $29 million went towards lobbying and $3.97 million went towards donations to legislative candidates (Motavalli, 1997). The majority of the public relations campaigns done by both the auto and oil companies were aimed at the increase of taxes that it would take to promote the electric car. The public, however, was not informed of the larger amount of money they are currently spending to continue the use of gas-powered vehicles. As the numbers and facts are examined it is clear that the oil industry has used its power and influence, both monetarily and legally, to keep the electric car from being produced.
As gas prices rise and rumors of oil conspired wars are consistently looming in the Middle East, it comes as no surprise that the general public would prefer an electric powered vehicle over a gas powered vehicle. While a mass produced electric vehicle is not currently available on the market, the electric and gas hybrid is. The hybrid car takes electric technology and combines it with the traditional gas powered engine. The result is a low emissions vehicle that has a high mile per gallon rating, as the car relies on both electric and gas power.
In a resent study done by J.D. Power and Associates, 57% of the consumers in the U.S. who expected to purchase a new vehicle by 2009 are considering a hybrid vehicle (King Flounders, 2007). This attraction to hybrid vehicles offers the most realistic glimpse into the future of the motor vehicle industry. Hence, it seems only logical that if the hybrid vehicle is attracting consumers because of the electric qualities, that a completely electric vehicle would gain an even greater demand.
This demand for an electric car was recently experienced by General Motor Company with the release of the first production electric vehicle, the EV1. The first EV1 concept car was revealed in the Los Angles Auto Show, in 1990. General Motor executives were surprised by the large demand for the concept to become a reality. The demands were not only from the public but also from the California State Legislature as they continued to enforce the Zero-Emissions Law that required General Motors to produce the vehicle. The EV1 was released by General Motors to the general public in the fall of 1996. As the public discovered that the completely electric car was about to hit the market, it became obvious that the demand for the EV1 was still strong.
Even with the limited availability, there was a large waiting list to purchase the new electric cars. Perhaps the large demand for the EV1 spawned from its ability to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in nine seconds, the standard air bags, anti-lock breaks, cruise control, traction control, electric locks, keyless entry and ignition, liquid free batteries, aluminum frame, or the 90 mile highway range of the batteries (Cook 1996). The car had such a high demand that the Saturn dealerships, where the car was offered for lease, had to screen the potential owners and then select only the most qualified applicants from the list (Cook 1996). Those that qualified were only allowed to lease the EV1 with no option of purchase. Of course the EV1 had its share of critics; however, due to the popular demand, it was apparent that General Motors had taken a step in the right direction.
At the end of the leasing option in 2003, many of the satisfied owners offered to buy the EV1. Instead of taking the buyers offers General Motors had all the EV1 returned, taken to a junk yard in Arizona and crushed (More, 2006). This bizarre decision to suddenly crush the vehicles raised the eyebrows of many EV1 enthusiasts. The decision to crush the EV1 came the same month the State of California lifted the Zero-Emissions mandate to accept lower forms of carbon producing vehicles (Silberg, 2006).
After the recall of the EV1, General Motors stated that the production costs for the all electric vehicles were too high and the technology did not allow for their production. While this excuse may have been effective over ten years ago, it has become more apparent that the technology is currently available and affordable. The technology to build an electric car has become so affordable that as Bill More, an author of the Mother Earth News, points out, “Anyone who has the time, talent and the resources can convert a conventional automobile to electric drive” (More, 2006). Of course most Americans do not have the ability to convert their daily driver into an electric vehicle, but it does show that the technology is currently available.
Often times many critics of the electric car debate that the car would need re-charging too often in order to allow the user to travel the distances needed throughout the day. Amazingly enough, one of the breakthroughs technologies of the EV1 was the ability to reuse kinetic energy displaced when breaking. This recycled energy could charge the battery up to 30%. Of course advanced breaking methods do not replace the need for recharging the batteries, but there are ways of incorporating charging batteries into our everyday life as seen in Europe.
Electric cars are one of the fastest growing forms of transportation in London; the number of electric cars jumping from 49 to 1,278 in two years. To make up for this increased form of electric transportation London has provided re-charge bays next to most parking meters (Britain: Charging around the city; Electric cars, 2007). It is only a matter of time before all of England is equipped to handle the electric car.
While the mass produced electric car is not currently on the market, smaller simpler electric vehicles are. The electric
scooter [http://www.mycityscooters.com] and electric bike are two forms of electric vehicles that are mass produced and can be bought at the local toy shop or even over the Internet. The electric scooter can be bought in two forms; the classic Vespa style, which appears resemble a motorcycle; or the children style electric scooter that represents a push style scooter. Both types of electric scooters are extremely popular amongst college students and inner-city commuters alike. The electric scooter is powered by batteries that can be re-charged using a conventional AC adaptor. Jerome Byrd, a web publisher, who lives in Philadelphia, has driven to work and throughout Philadelphia on his electric scooter and has gone nearly a total of 30,000 miles (Moore, 2007).
Even more popular is the electric
bike [http://www.mycityscooters.com]. Just like the electric scooter, the electric bike is powered by batteries and can come in two forms: the human assisted (comes with pedals) or the completely electric bike (does not need pedals). While there are many different forms of e-bikes they are all measured in watts and amps. The more watts and amps that you purchase the more powerful the electric bike (and scooter) are. These bikes can reach up to 24 mph and travel up to 15 miles on a single charge. Although, the electric scooter and electric bike are by no means an alternative to a car, their ability to be mass produced commercially is paving the way.
Each year, as the temperature rises and more human lives are lost to the intensified natural disasters due to global warming, we are reminded of the need for a solution to combat global warming. The solution comes in the form of a pollution free electric vehicle. While the mighty oil companies and their minions, the U.S. government and auto manufacturers, have done all they can to stop alternative forms of energy from emerging, the overwhelming need, the undeniable want and the available technologies cannot stop the electric car from once again quietly gliding down a street near you some day soon.
Texas is leading the nation in Energy Deregulation. Because of the planning and implementation of a very efficient Energy Deregulation and Operating System by the Texas Legislature, Texans can now enjoy the benefits of competition. Texas created the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.
The mission of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is to direct and ensure reliable and cost-effective operation of the electric grid and to enable fair and efficient market-driven solutions to meet customers' electric service needs.
The ERCOT grid covers approximately 75 percent of the land area in Texas.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages the flow of electric power to approximately 20 million Texas customers - representing 85 percent of the state's electric load and 75 percent of the Texas land area.
As the independent system operator for the region, ERCOT schedules power on an electric grid that connects 38,000 miles of transmission lines and more than 500 generation units.
ERCOT also manages financial settlement for the competitive wholesale bulk-power market and administers customer switching for 5.9 million Texans in competitive choice areas.
Balanced market rules are a basic element in Texas competition. Clear, predictable and well-designed rules help foster a stable electricity market. Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) market rules are developed by participants from all aspects of the electricity industry. The rules and amendments are reviewed by the Public Utility Commission of Texas to ensure that they satisfy the public interest.
Texas lawmakers changed state law to allow customers to have more control over their purchase of electric service because they believe competition is good for Texas. Over time, competition for electric service is expected to lower rates and speed the development of new products and services.
WHAT HAS CHANGED?
In the past, one company provided all parts of your electric service (generation, transmission and distribution, and retail sales). With competition, these parts are separated into different companies. Generation, or production of electricity, was deregulated in 1995, resulting in an ample supply of new, cleaner and more efficient power plants throughout Texas.
The actual delivery of electricity across poles and wires to your home is called transmission and distribution. These services are provided to you by your local wires company, which is responsible for maintaining the poles and wires, and responding to emergencies and power outages as always. The Public Utility Commission continues to regulate transmission and distribution to ensure the safety and reliability of your electric service.
With electric competition, Retail Electric Providers sell electricity to you and provide functions such as customer service and billing. Retail Electric Providers compete for your business by offering lower prices, renewable energy options, added customer service benefits or other incentives.
No matter which Retail Electric Provider provides your service, the Public Utility Commission continues to enforce customer protections and regulate the delivery of electricity to ensure it is delivered safely and reliably by the local wires company .
Competition also is expected to create new jobs, stimulate economic development and help our environment.
All Retail Electric Providers must adhere to Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) rules and regulations designed to protect you against fraudulent, unfair, misleading, discriminatory or anti-competitive practices.
These protections include:
Non-Discrimination: In addition to standard discrimination prohibitions, a Retail Electric Provider may not deny service or discriminate in the marketing of electric service based on a customer's income level, location in an economically distressed area, or qualification for low-income or energy efficiency services.
Slamming and Cramming: Slamming is switching your electric service provider without your permission. Cramming is adding charges to your electric bill for additional services without your permission. Both slamming and cramming are illegal.
Dispute Resolution: Retail Electric Providers must promptly investigate customer complaints and customers have the right to make complaints about a Retail Electric Provider to the PUC.
Privacy of Information: No Retail Electric Provider can release any customer-specific information to another Retail Electric Provider or any other companies without your permission.
Safety and Reliability: No matter which Retail Electric Provider you choose, the Public Utility Commission continues to enforce customer protections and regulate the delivery of electricity to ensure it is delivered safely and reliably by the local wires company.
DELIVERY OF ELECTRICITY
When you choose a new electric provider, you are choosing the company that provides or sells you electricity - a company called a Retail Electric Provider. These companies purchase electricity from competing power plants, and electricity is delivered to your home or business over the same poles and wires that are in your neighborhood today.
The actual delivery of the electricity ("transmission and distribution") is still provided by your local utility, now called a local wires company. In a competitive electric market, your local wires company will continue to be responsible for maintaining the poles and wires that deliver electricity to your home or business. You and your neighbors can all have different Retail Electric Providers, but you all have the same local wires company.
An important message from the Commissioners regarding Electric Choice and the reliability of your electric service. - 01/05
REPAIRS AND EMERGENCIES
If you experience an emergency or power outage, you may call:
Your Retail Electric Provider, who will work with the local wires company to repair the problem, or connect you to your local wires company.
The number for repairs and emergencies printed on your electric bill.
Your local wires company as you do today.
KHOU-TV CH-11 NEWS
HOUSTON, TEXAS (June 6, 2006 Transcript)
Families across our area can save hundreds, even thousands of dollars if they would only switch to an
energy provider that charges less. But you know what, most people just won't switch and we've wondered
why. 11 News reporter Jeremy Diesel shows us what he's uncovered. You have the power to choose.
Power that can literally save you hundreds of dollars a year on your bill. But in the four years since electricity deregulation began in Texas only a little more than 25% of people in the Houston area have left Reliant Energy, even though the price it's forced to charge is generally the highest.
Minnie Lee Coleman is like so many others. " If it gets unbearable here I will cut it off and just sacrifice
something else to pay my electric bill. Because paying half and part I don't do that." Last night she told
us she's willing to sacrifice. But not willing to leave Reliant for a cheaper price. "I don't trust them. And
Houston Mayor Bill White is hoping to educate. "They should not question reliability as far as keeping
the lights on or what happens if there is a storm -- who is going to turn back on the power."
Here's the deal, when deregulation happened five years ago, Reliant Energy divided into two completely
separate companies. Reliant which sells power and Centerpoint which delivers it. CenterPoint
owns the lines which carry power, maintain them and reads the meter no matter who your power
Come storm time, its CenterPoint which restores power to those who lose it. Not the power provider
you pay. All of the power companies Reliant, TXU, Green Mountain, Commerce and more than a dozen
others all put their power on the Texas grid. Its then used by everyone. Your meter read by CenterPoint
shows the amount you used. CenterPoint forwards that information to your provider who bills you.
"Who you buy your power from does not affect the reliability of that power. But it can affect your
Questions - General
Q: What has stayed the same in electric service?
A: Your current Transmission and Distribution Utility, or "local wires company," continues to deliver electricity to your home. Your local wires company still responds to service interruptions and continues to maintain the poles and wires. You will continue to receive the same reliable service you are used to with your local wires company, regardless of which Retail Electric Provider you receive service from.
Q: What has changed in electric service?
A: You can now choose to buy your electricity from a different electric provider than the original provider for your area. These companies are called Retail Electric Providers. Additionally, your bill now looks different than bills you have received in the past, but each Retail Electric Provider provides the same standard information.
Q: Do all Texans have the power to choose their electric provider?
A: No. City-owned utilities and member-owned electric cooperatives have the option of giving their customers a choice of providers, or keeping things the way they are today. To see if competition is active in your area call toll-free 1-866-PWR-4-TEX (1-866-797-4839).
Q: What are the benefits of Electric Choice?
A: Texas' electric rates are average, compared to the rest of the country, but our usage is among the highest in the nation due to demand for air conditioning during the long, hot summer season. Competition in other industries has often brought lower prices and innovative, new products and services. Having more control over your buying decision should make it easier to determine what matters most to you, whether it's prices, renewable energy, customer service, or simply a name you know.
Electric competition also should help the environment because Retail Electric Providers must offer some energy from renewable energy sources. Renewable energy - such as wind, solar, hydroelectric and biomass (gas released from landfills) - produce less air pollution than sources that rely on burning coal or natural gas.
The Texas power market is one of the most attractive in the country for new investment. Forty-seven new power plants have been built or are being built in Texas since 1995 (that's almost one-fourth of all power plants being built or planned in the nation). The properties represent a $10 billion investment in Texas. These plants provide jobs and sales and tax revenue into local Texas communities.
Q: How does Electric Choice affect electric rates?
A: The base rates for residential and small commercial customers of investor-owned utilities in Texas were frozen from September 1, 1999, to December 31, 2002. On January 1, 2002, rates for most of these customers were lowered, creating the "Price to Beat." The Affiliate Retail Electric Provider cannot charge above this rate until it loses 40 percent of its customers or five years pass, whichever comes first.
Q: If electric rates are frozen, why does my electric bill rise?
A: Texas law allows the Affiliate Retail Electric Provider (the electric provider that was part of the original electric company that generated and sold electricity in your area, that now only sells electricity) to ask the PUC to adjust the "fuel factor" portion of its rate when there are significant changes in the market price of natural gas and purchased energy. These requests, which may be made twice a year, are subject to PUC review and approval. The cost of natural gas has increased significantly over the last year, and fuel factors have been increased to reflect the higher cost of natural gas. For more information on how natural gas prices change please review Questions and Answers Regarding Natural Gas Prices.
The Affiliate Retail Electric Provider is prohibited from making a profit on fuel costs. Competitive (or new to the area) Retail Electric Providers set their own electric service rates.
Q: With competition, will the reliability of my electric service change?
A: No. No matter which Retail Electric Provider you choose, your electricity will continue to be delivered safely and reliably by the local wires company, a company still regulated by the PUC.
Q: How does the new competition law protect the environment?
A: The law requires "grandfathered" power plants (those that predate the 1971 Texas Clean Air Act) to reduce nitrogen-oxide emissions by at least 50 percent and sulfur dioxide by 25 percent before May 1, 2003.
Encourages upgrade or retirement of older power plants to meet emissions standards by allowing utilities to recoup the costs of retrofitting or retiring certain older power plants.
Provides incentives for energy efficiency programs that will result in less demand for the production of electricity.
Requires retail electric providers to buy an additional combined 2,000 megawatts of Texas renewable electric generation capacity statewide by January 2009, from sources that include wind, solar, hydroelectric, biomass or geothermal.
Q: Do I have to switch from my current electric utility?
A: No. If you decide not to choose a new Retail Electric Provider, your service will be provided by the Affiliate Retail Electric Provider. The Affiliate Retail Electric Provider is the electric provider that was part of the original electric company that generated and sold electricity in your area, that now only sells electricity and provides customer service.
Questions - Changing Providers
Q: Is there a penalty for changing providers?
A: There is no switching fee unless you request a special meter reading at a time other than your regularly scheduled meter reading. There may also be penalties if you break an existing contract with your current Retail Electric Provider. Review your Terms of Service agreement for details.
Q: If I sign up with a new Retail Electric Provider, when will the switch to that company happen?
A: Customers can choose a Retail Electric Provider at any time; however, you will not begin to receive power from your new Retail Electric Provider until after your next regularly scheduled meter reading. Before you are switched, you will receive written confirmation in the mail. You will receive your first electric bill from your new Retail Electric Provider on the following billing cycle.
Q: Do I have a right to cancel?
A: Yes. You may cancel within three days from when you receive your Terms of Service agreement by contacting the Retail Electric Provider. If you are hand-delivered a terms of service agreement or you sign up for service using the Internet, there is a three-day cancellation period. The confirmation that will be mailed to you will also provide a way to cancel your switch.
Q: What happens if my Retail Electric Provider stops serving customers?
A: You will not be without electricity. Your Retail Electric Provider must give you 30 days' advance notice to give you time to select a new provider. However, if you do not choose a new provider, your service will automatically be switched to the Provider of Last Resort for your area.
Q: If I do not choose an electric provider, who will supply my electricity?
A: If you decided not to choose a new Retail Electric Provider, your service is being provided by the Affiliate Retail Electric Provider. The Affiliate Retail Electric Provider is the electric provider that was part of the original electric company that generated and sold electricity in your area, that now only sells electricity and provides customer service.
Questions - Why is Texas different from California
Although Texas and California have similarly sized electric grids and similar growth in power demand, Texas put more than eight times the capacity online between 1996 and 1999 than California added.
The Texas power plant permitting process has a lead-time of two to three years to construct new power plants, while California's lead-time is approximately seven years. Since 1995, 47 new power plants have been built or are being built in Texas, representing one-fourth of all power plants being built in the nation. California has built only two power plants since 1995.
New plant construction will allow power generators to easily meet the needs of residential and non-residential power users in our state.
Texas imports less than 1 percent of its power during peak power demand, compared to California, which imports at least 25 percent of its load during peak demand.
Long-term wholesale market contracts in Texas shield customers from price volatility. In Texas, power generators and Retail Electric Providers can negotiate wholesale power purchases for the lowest price, which benefits customers.
Texas enacted strong measures to protect customers during the transition to a fully competitive retail electric market. These measures have kept a lid on electric rates so Texas electric customers won't see their electric bill double or triple.
You have a choice and now is the time to take control of your New Energy Options.
For more information contact:
Steve Thompson 512-892-3529
The Syrian regime has used children as human shields and torturing young, whose parents are suspected dissidents, according to a UN report.
The report on children and armed conflict account details conflict of children allegedly abused by pro-government forces and came as a senior UN official has said the conflict in Syria exploded into civil war.
"Yes, I think we can say that," said the head of peacekeeping United Nations, Herve Ladsous when asked if Syria is in a civil war. "Clearly what is happening is that the Syrian government has lost some large chunks of territory, several cities in opposition, and wants to regain control."
Ladsous, who spoke to two news agencies, was unavailable for comment Tuesday because he was traveling. His spokesman Kieran Dwyer, they confirmed to CNN, but said it is called is not important.
Fight to save the children injured in Syria
Syria, which allow for "crimes against humanity"
"Small portion of horror" in Syria
"Small portion of horror" in Syria
"Whether we call it a civil war, civil war, if we call it partial, civil war in some places, the bottom line is that it is enormous escalation, which is in almost all regions the country and the civilians Syria ordinary people, are suffering, "said Dwyer.
The UN report on children, as of late April, was published Monday by the United Nations.
"Most victims of torture of children described being beaten, blindfolded, subjected to stress positions, whipped with electric cables heavy, scarred by cigarette burns and, in one reported case, subject to electric shocks in the genitals, "the report said, citing dozens of eyewitness accounts." Children have been detained and tortured by their brothers or their father is assumed that members of the opposition or the FSA, or they were themselves suspected of being associated with the FSA, "referring to the Syrian armed rebellion free.
Dozens of children between the ages of 8 and 13 reported using human shields by pro-regime forces during a raid in the village of Ain the Arouz in March, according to the report.
This includes allegations that the rebel forces and the Syrian army recruited and used children free, despite the declared policy of the FSA not to hire a person under 17 years.
Songs of Syrian army officers could not immediately be reached for comment.
Mark Lyall Grant, British ambassador to the United Nations, said that the conclusions of the UN report "very disturbing" and examine "carefully by all members of the Security Council. But it's just a Another chapter of barbarism is imposed by the Syrian regime in its own civilian population.
"So to be honest, we are not surprised by the report, but still an aberrant example of how far outside the boundaries of humanity the Syrian regime is gone."
The regime of President Bashar al-Assad has long blamed the violence in the country "armed terrorist groups".
The country on Tuesday criticized the United States. A report by the state news agency SANA quoted an "official source" in the Syrian Foreign Ministry, saying "that the U.S. administration continues its blatant interference in the internal affairs of Syria, his open support of terrorist covering the crimes of the terrorists, to distort the facts about Syria to the UN and the countries of extortion and the international community to besiege Syria. "
A group of human rights implored the Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Syria. Human Rights Watch said that the Council should impose targeted sanctions such as asset freeze and travel ban to the Syrian leadership.
Citing violations Syria Documentation Centre, a network of Syrian activists, the group said at least 1,176 children have been killed since February 2011.
After 15 months of bloodshed, the conflict shows no signs of slowing down, while the regime's forces continue to bomb cities, opposition activists say.
At least 60 people died Tuesday, including many children and women, local coordinating committees of the opposition in Syria, he said. Sixteen deaths occurred in Deir ez-Zor, 23 of them in Homs and Aleppo were 12, the group said.
Dead as opposition leader in Syria collects 96
Dead as opposition leader in Syria collects 96
This is the regime of Syria in Damascus lose?
Fight to save the children injured in Syria
A family of six people including a baby, was killed in add, in the province of Aleppo, when a shell hit his house, CVC said.
Residents of the city in favor of the government of al-Pura, near al-Haffa, the UN observers prevented from reaching al-Haffa on Tuesday on the road, although the city, the Observatory opposition Syrian Human Rights said.
The monitoring mission of the United Nations in Syria, said in a statement that observers try to reach al-Haffa in Lattakia province, "clashed with angry crowds that surrounded their vehicle, which prevented from moving forward. The crowd seemed to be residents of the area, then threw rocks and metal bars in UN vehicles. "
"The UN observers turned. After leaving the area, three vehicles were heading Idlib learned. The source of the fire is not yet clear."
The observers returned to their bases ", and are safe," the UN statement. The mission was to try to reach al-Haffa since Thursday, but was hampered by the violence in the region, the statement said.
UN officials and the U.S. have expressed concern about reports that the government was using mortars, helicopters and tanks against the opposition to al-Haffa. They also expressed concern that residents could be trapped.
A banner on state television said some residents of the province Latakia "tried to explain to members of the mission of observers of their suffering by terrorist groups, but observers did not hear them. Instead, one of their cars hit three citizens "of which two were in critical condition.
Dwyer spokesman Ladsous called firing on vehicles peacekeeping "deliberate and direct" and said that UN officials are to assess whether the 300 peacekeepers disarmed in Syria are safe enough to continue their activities. "We think of every situation," he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern Tuesday about reports that Russia might be of attack helicopters to Syria. Speakinng at an event in Washington, Clinton said the United States faced Russia to stop arms shipments to the Assad regime.
State Department spokesman, Victoria Nuland, said the U.S. was "pushing the Russians for months to break military ties with the Syrian regime and do not possess. And instead kept reassuring us all that they are Syria sent military can not be used against civilians. And now what do we see? We find that the Syrian government using helicopters to film their own people from the air. "
Undersecretary of State William Burns to speak with a Russian officer to discuss Syria's economic at a meeting Thursday in Kabul, the State Department.
Photos: Photos of slaughter in Syria: Syria slaughter
Who is Abdul Basit Sieda?
Clinton said there seems no easy solution to end the bloodshed in Syria. "We are regularly approached by representatives of different groups inside Syria who are terrified of what comes next," he told an audience at the Brookings Institution. "So how can we achieve a political transition - assuming you can manage a political transition - how quiet and offers some protection to Christians, Druze, Alawites, Kurds, Sunnis, business leaders and others, how can we avoid a massive influx of refugees across the borders of Jordan and Turkey, how can we protect Lebanon from being trapped in the sectarian divisions that afflict and Syria, if these issues were evident and update the answers, I would like to share with you "..
Meanwhile, Syria said that an "armed terrorist group" attacked the state-owned al-Ikhbaria television channel al-Haffa in "an attempt to stop the national media conveying the truth."
The group opened fire on a car, and "al-Ikhbaria corresponding Mazen Mohammad was beaten in his hand while the cameraman Fadi Yacoub was beaten in the chest," the state news agency SANA.
SANA reported that 36 "martyrs of the army and the forces of public order" were buried Tuesday.
The latest reports of violence came a day after government forces fired indiscriminately from a helicopter over a town outside of Jabal Al-Zawiya, causing dozens of civilian casualties and rebel forces, an activist told CNN.
Swed Ibrahim, speaking of the city Idlib province, said the fighting between the army and the Syrian government forces free persisted for six hours and resulted in 32 deaths.