Rep. Betts supports bill to protect electricity customers

State Representative Whit Betts (R-78) supported legislation in the House of Representatives that offers new protections to residential electricity customers who switch to retail energy providers.

Provisions of the bill include the development of greater transparency in electric rate statements, requiring utilities to take no longer than 72 hours to switch over ratepayers who have chosen a retail provider, and creates prohibitions against coercive and deceptive sales practices employed by some retail energy suppliers.

 “This past winter I heard terrible stories from consumers who had switched to retail electricity providers, only to be stunned by spiking rates they hadn’t anticipated,” said Betts, according to a press release from his office.  “This legislation takes critical steps to ensure that predatory marketing practices which lure in consumers with low introductory rates only to hit them with high rates immediately afterward will no longer be tolerated.”

According to the release, Betts noted another important element of the legislation requires utilities to switch consumers who choose another provider no later than 72 hours after the request. He said many consumers complained of requesting a change once they decided they did not like their rate, but not having it processed for well over two months in many instances.

The Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) is required to develop a billing design so electric consumers will be able to see their rate, and see how it compares to standard offer rates. It also allows consumers to choose the method they receive that information including regular mail, email, text alert, through an app, or online. PURA also will require providers to give quarterly notices to consumers that will notify them as to whether their rates are staying the same or changing, and if they will be saving money or not.

The release said Betts explained some available retailers were actually saving people money, were providing good service and savings, and were not predatory. 

He also said that the bill passed does not cap rates or turn back to a regulated product.

Further provisions of the bill, the release said, will:

  • Reduce early termination fees. Allow customers greater freedom of choice by reducing the maximum cancellation fee from $100 to $50.
  • Require notice of new contract terms. Customers whose contracts provide for an auto renewal or transition to variable rates must receive notice 45 days in advance, including a plain-English description of the new terms and recent history of rates.
  • Help customers who move. Allows customers who move to keep their electric supplier, and prevents their being charged a cancellation fee.
  • Stabilize teaser rates. If a supplier markets a variable rate plan with an introductory “teaser” rate, that rate may not increase for at least three months.

 

The Bill, SB 2, An Act Concerning Electric Customer Consumer Protection and Clarifying the Property Tax Exemption for Certain Solar Thermal or Geothermal Renewable Energy Sources passed the House unanimously by a vote of 145-0. It previously also passed the State Senate unanimously on April 29. It now heads to the desk of Governor Dannel P. Malloy for his signature. This session of the Connecticut General Assembly adjourns at midnight on Wednesday, May 7.