Senator Hwang Protects Consumers with Vote to Ban Potentially Deceptive Electricity Contracts

May 22, 2015
Sen. Tony Hwang (R-28) joins the co-chairs of the Energy and Technology Committee, Sen. Paul Doyle (D-9) and Rep. Lonnie Reed (D-102), at a news conference May 20 in support of SB 573.

Sen. Tony Hwang (R-28) joins the co-chairs of the Energy and Technology Committee, Sen. Paul Doyle (D-9) and Rep. Lonnie Reed (D-102), at a news conference May 20 in support of SB 573.

Sen. Tony Hwang Joins Bipartisan Group of Legislators and AARP
Pushing for Landmark Consumer Protections

HARTFORD – Connecticut moved one step closer to becoming the first state in the nation to ban potentially deceptive and unpredictable variable-rate electricity contracts when the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill (SB) 573 on May 20.

Ahead of the vote, chairman of the General Assembly’s Energy and Technology Committee, Sen. Paul Doyle (D-9) and ranking member Sen. Paul Formica (R-20), gathered at the Capitol Building alongside a bipartisan group of legislators including Sen. Tony Hwang (R-28), and representatives from AARP Connecticut, for a news conference in support of the bill.

The legislation was brought forth in response to growing concern from consumers and the Connecticut Attorney General about those variable rates, which offer attractive low rates to start but often unpredictably skyrocket to as high as 20% after that introductory rate often without notification. Many consumers opt for variable rate contracts as they seek financial relief from Connecticut’s high energy costs.

Once enacted, SB 573 would ban variable rates charged to residential electric customers for electric generation service.

“This is a critically important consumer protection bill and I am proud to support it,” said Sen. Hwang, who co-introduced the legislative amendment that won overwhelming support in the Senate. “Variable rates prey on some of our state’s most susceptible residents – the ones who can least afford what turn out to be rates even higher than standard rates offered by major utilities.”

“I’m proud to be a part of this joint effort to better protect consumers across Connecticut,” Sen. Formica said. “The Energy and Technology Committee has worked collaboratively to put together legislation that will properly safeguard customers and ensure that people know exactly how much they are paying for their electricity.”

Sen. Doyle added, “Electricity is an essential necessity for all consumers, not a luxury. By banning these contracts we are protecting consumers from unpredictable and excessive charges brought on by the volatile nature of a variable-rate contract.”

Last year, the General Assembly passed Public Act 14-75, which enacted several reforms for the protection of electric consumers. Perhaps the most significant of these measures was a new requirement that, beginning this July, every residential electric customer’s monthly bill must display their rate for the coming month.

As an extension of his commitment to protect consumers and bring greater accountability and transparency throughout all aspects of government and industries that provide essential services like energy, Sen. Hwang also supports SB 570, which would put a $10 cap on the fixed charge that all electric customers pay irrespective of how much energy they use.

Today, Eversource (formerly CL&P) has the highest fixed charge among major utility companies in New England ($19.25/month), and United Illuminating has the 2nd highest ($17.25/month). SB 570 has not been brought up for a vote in the Senate yet.

While the legislative action is significant, Sen. Hwang encourages residents to take a proactive approach to saving energy.

“One of the best ways we can exert greater control over our energy bills, and save money, is by putting energy efficiency and conservation strategies into play in our homes,” he said.

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