When Christopher Kilbourne opened his February electric bill, he couldn’t believe what he owed: $633.
“I was shocked at first, and I was outraged,” said Kilbourne. “I looked at it, and I couldn’t believe that a company would be able to double their rate.”
Kilbourne started using a third-party electric supplier back in 2013 and says he saw savings at first.
But over the past few months his rates kept rising, slowly at first, and then nearly doubling from January to February.
The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority is looking into cases like Kilbourne’s after receiving a flood of complaints from consumers about third-party suppliers.
Starting Wednesday, Feb. 19, PURA will hold a series of public hearings.
"PURA wants to understand how the retailers are treating customers, what are their practices, and if there are issues how can we deal with them,” said Dennis Schain, spokesman for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which oversees PURA. “How can we remedy this so people are treated fairly?”
Regulators expect to hear from both customers and electric suppliers as they consider changes in how these companies do business in Connecticut.
The hearings come after PURA, the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of Consumer Counsel received a flood of complaints ranging from spiking rates to questionable marketing practices.
Consumer advocates are hopeful these hearings will bring about new rules that will protect customers.
"If thousands of consumers feel they've been duped, then we have a problem, then what's going on is not right, and that's what we're trying to correct," said Elin Katz, Commissioner of the Office of Consumer Counsel. "People feel they can't afford to pay these bills, and they can't understand why they necessarily should be paying twice as much for electricity as their next door neighbors when it's the exact same electrons flowing over the wires."
The public hearings are scheduled as follows:
- 6:30 p.m. Feb. 19 at City Hall Auditorium, 70 West River Street in Milford
- 6:30 p.m. Feb. 20 at Farmington Community Center, 321 New Britain Avenue in Unionville
- 6:30 p.m. Feb. 24 at Broookfield Town Hall, 100 Pocono Road in Brookfield
- 6:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at Norwich City Hall, 100 Broadway in Norwich
- 6:30 p.m. Feb. 27 at Waterbury City Hall, Veterans Memorial Hall, 2nd floor, 235 Grand Street in Waterbury