Third-party electric suppliers may have a new set of rules to live with if a new proposal by Gov. Dannel Malloy makes it through the legislature. The eight-point plan amounts to a consumer bill of rights when dealing with competitive suppliers.
For months, consumer complaints have poured into the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, the Office of Consumer Counsel and the Attorney General’s Office. Customers have reported spikes in prices with rates as much as quadrupling, questionable marketing practices, and other challenges when dealing with these companies.
"The majority of complaints have been about people getting overcharged, getting switched without permission, and not being able to get out from under a giant rate," said Elin Katz, Executive Director of the Consumer Counsel. "We're changing that whole framework. We're the first state in the country that I'm aware of that's really doing this."
Under the new protections, suppliers would be required to publish on a customer’s bill both the rate they are being charged and the rate that they would pay under the standard offer from either Connecticut Light & Power or United Illuminating.
The protections also make it easier for consumers to switch suppliers. A change back to the standard offer would take just 48 hours, and switching to another supplier would take no more than 30 days.
Currently, customers say it often takes months for a switch to take effect. The proposal would also eliminate or greatly reduce early termination fees.
"Our goal is to arm consumers with better information that allows them to compare electric supplier offers and to make the best choices for their families," said Malloy.
The proposal would additionally give more power to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority and set aside funding for them to enforce the rules. PURA is in the middle of an investigation that revealed a host of problems between consumers and third-party suppliers.
The agency has received nearly 1,300 complaints in the first three months of 2014. Its final report is expected sometime in June.
The governor is calling on the legislature to move forward with his proposal soon.
The full list of proposed protections is as follows:
1. Disclosure of comparative rates on customers' bills
2. Disclosure of high and low rates charged/offered
3. Initial three months fixed
4. Quick switching
5. Combat "customer capture "
6. Affirmative consent for variable-rate contracts
7. Regulating unfair and deceptive sales practices