entered into variable rate contracts with competitive generation suppliers only to receive unusually high electric utility bills.
“Also, there is no reason a customer should have to wait an entire billing cycle to switch companies after receiving a higher than expected bill. With today's technology, customers should be able to switch suppliers almost immediately, and at most it should take a couple of days.”
Pennsylvania allows residential electric customers to choose an electric supplier. Customers who choose to purchase electricity from a generation supplier, and not the regulated distribution company, often pay a variable rate. As a result of this business model and volatility in the wholesale market, generation suppliers have recently increased customer variable rates by as much as several hundred percent in some cases.
“I am concerned that many electric customers on variable rate plans were unclear as to the terms of their contact. I am also concerned about reports of some customers being placed on these plans automatically, without their affirmative consent, after their fixed plan had expired,” Matzie said. “While some consumers knowingly have a variable rate, others do not. Therefore, I believe that rate hikes should be properly advertised whether it’s 24 hours, five days or however long in advance. The bottom line is this is about electricity usage for residential customers, and it shouldn’t be treated like the stock market.”
After receiving more than 750 complaints about unusually high electric bills this year, the Public Utility Commission has announced an investigation into the rules, policies and consumer education measures regarding variable rate electric generation products.
“While I am grateful the PUC has initiated this investigation, and I am sure that they will thoroughly examine the past and present activities of electric generation suppliers, I am worried that it may not be enough,” Matzie said. “Currently, the PUC does not regulate these companies, and it would take legislative action to change that.”
Rep. Bob Godshall, chairman of the House Consumer Affairs Committee, has announced that the committee will hold a hearing within the next few weeks to investigate the issue. At the hearing, representatives from the PUC, PJM Interconnection, the Office of Consumer Advocate and competitive suppliers are expected to present testimony.
“As a member of the Consumer Affairs Committee, I am looking forward to this hearing so I can finally get answers to take back to the people in my district dealing with these ridiculously high bills,” Matzie said. “I am hopeful that if a legislative remedy is needed we can get swift action. This is a bipartisan issue that can affect anyone, but especially our elderly and most vulnerable residents.”