Senator Chapin Backs Electricity Consumer Protection Bill

April 30, 2014

Hartford – State Senator Clark Chapin (R-30), ranking member of the General Assembly’s Energy and Technology Committee, co-introduced consumer protection legislation that won unanimous approval in the Connecticut State Senate yesterday. The legislation strives to protect electricity consumers from unanticipated future spikes in their electric rates and clears up confusion in the system.

“In the past few months many electric customers have seen their monthly bills doubled and even tripled in some cases,” said Senator Chapin. “Customers were not warned about these price spikes, leaving families shocked and struggling to pay their bills. The unsettling rate increases and unacceptable lack of communication makes it imperative that we take action to establish better protections for all consumers.”

Yesterday, Senate Bill 2 received a favorable vote by the Senate, and now moves on to the House of Representatives. The bill, if signed into law, would require the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to study the disclosure of electric supplier contract terms on electric customer bills and establish ways to better communicate with customers. The proposed legislation would do the following to establish better protections:

  • Make it easier for customers to compare pricing policies and charges. By requiring the state to initiate a docket to redesign the billing format for residential customers, the state can study and address problems that need to be fixed. The legislation would also require a redesign of the rate board internet site so that it is easier to compare information about different suppliers.
    • Let customers choose how to receive information related to bill notices. Customers would be able to decide how they receive billing notifications. Options would include U.S. mail, e-mail, text messages or an app.
    • Require notification before charging certain new rates. The legislation would prohibit an electric supplier from charging a customer month-to-month variable rates for generation following the expiration of a contract without providing written notification to the customer 45 days prior to the beginning of such rate. The legislation would also prohibit a supplier from charging a rate that is 25 percent more than the original contract price or the last rate notification provided by the supplier without disclosing the rate change 15 days before it takes effect.
    • Prohibit suppliers from misleading customers. Suppliers would be prohibited from making statements suggesting a prospective customer is required to choose a certain supplier. Suppliers would also be required to disclose any fixed or recurring charge such as a monthly minimum charge. Additionally, the legislation would prohibit any door-to-door salesperson for a supply company from wearing apparel, carrying equipment or distributing materials with the logo of an electric distribution company (including Northeast Utilities and United Illuminating). This would stop supply companies from misleading customers into thinking a supply company is associated with a larger distribution company.
  • Require that all fixed rates must be fixed for at least 3 months. That rate can also be lowered, but never raised in that set period of time.
  • Require the development of customer protection standards. This legislation would require the state to initiate a contested proceeding to develop and implement standards relating to abusive switching practices, solicitations and renewals by suppliers, the hiring and training of sales reps and by door-to-door sales and telemarketing practices by suppliers.
  • Require the inclusion of informative quarterly inserts in future bills, including inserts about the following:
    • the electric generation rate
    • the term and expiration date of that rate
    • any change to such rate effective for the next billing cycle
    • the cancellation fee if there is one
    • notification when such a rate is variable
    • the standard service rate
    • the term and expiration date of the standard service rate
    • the dollar amount that would have been billed for electric generation services had the customer been on standard service.

“Connecticut’s lawmakers are committed to protecting consumers and promoting honest business practices. Customers expect and deserve fair pricing and truthful information, especially when it concerns an everyday need such as electricity services. This legislation moves us in the right direction, and will hopefully bring peace of mind to hundreds of thousands of families across our state,” said Senator Chapin.