Suzio: Electric Rate Billing Errors Should Give Rise to Pro-Consumer Legislation

October 28, 2018

Suzio: Electric Rate Billing Errors

Should Give Rise to Pro-Consumer Legislation



Sen. Len Suzio and state Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz today provided an update for electric customers using third-party electric suppliers who received inaccurate next cycle rate information on their Eversource and United Illuminating bills.


Suzio brought the issue to the attention of Consumer Counsel Katz and state officials earlier this year after spotting next cycle rate inaccuracies on his Eversource bills. He said state law should be changed to give Connecticut’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) the power to order restitution for affected customers.  He pointed to a release by the Office of Consumer Counsel which notes how states such as Massachusetts and Illinois are taking steps to refund and protect consumers who have been overcharged by third-party suppliers. (


“Here in Connecticut, PURA does not currently have the authority to order restitution when consumers have been unfairly overcharged,” Suzio said.  “Right now, consumers can get ripped off by these third-party electric suppliers and then never get a dime back.  We need to put teeth into Connecticut law so that consumers are put first.  Ratepayers need to be provided a clear path to reimbursement.”


Suzio commended PURA on a recently issued preliminary decision which orders utilities and third-party suppliers to develop a system to insure accurate customer bills.  The preliminary decision focuses on the “next cycle rate” portion of bills which provide advance notice of generation supply rate changes sought by third-party electric suppliers. It requires third-party electric suppliers to cover the costs of implementation rather than pass on the costs to consumers.


However, Suzio noted that he hoped PURA’s schedule for implementation of the new billing system would be expedited.  Rather than a July 1, 2019 deadline for changes, Suzio said the parties should make this a higher priority and bump the deadline to March 31, 2019.


Suzio added that while state regulatory officials cannot order restitution right now, they can and should order the utilities and the third-party electric suppliers to develop a clear system for consumers to file claims for overcharges stemming from next cycle rate inaccuracies.


Suzio said that his own attempts to receive reimbursement from Spark Energy – the third-party electric suppliers that Suzio was using when he noticed errors on his bills – were ultimately met with indifference and refusal, after being directed to numerous different representatives of the company.


“The dismal customer service that I encountered is no different than what the average customer would experience when attempting to secure a refund,” Suzio said. “Let’s make this simple for overcharged, overburdened ratepayers. The claims system should include whom to contact, including phone and e-mail information, what information to present when making a claim, an acknowledgement of the claim receipt by the third-party electric supplier and a response timeline for the suppliers to meet once they have received a claim.”


PURA is currently investigating Spark Energy for potential compliance violations related to the next cycle rate issue and other consumer protection matters.  In recent years, PURA has initiated numerous dockets to investigate deceptive marketing and sales practices by various third-party suppliers.


Consumer Counsel Katz said, “I am grateful to Senator Suzio for his continued attention to this issue, and in fact to every member of the Legislature, as significant reforms to the third-party electric supplier market have been unanimously passed on a bipartisan basis in recent years.  Despite having the most stringent consumer protection laws in the country, however, we continue to see case after case of alleged consumer abuses by suppliers, including this overbilling controversy.  We also see that residential customers are still losing money as a whole in this market.”


Katz cited a report from her office, OCC Fact Sheet:  Electric Supplier Market September 2017 Through August 2018, which showed that more than 70% of the Eversource and UI residential customers who contract with a third-party suppliers are paying more than the standard service rate offered by the utilities, for a total payment as compared to standard service of over $38 million for that 12-month period.


“It is time we really examine the future of this market,” Katz added.


More than seven out of 10 customers are paying more?” Suzio asked.  “This totally undermines the idea that opening the market to competition is to the advantage of consumers.  There’s no need to sugarcoat it: Some of these third-party suppliers are unethical and unscrupulous.  They take advantage of ratepayers and profit enormously by doing so.  The General Assembly must take additional steps to protect Connecticut consumers from the predatory behavior of these companies. I can see why Massachusetts’ Attorney General has called for the termination of the program. A similar step may be necessary here in Connecticut if third-party suppliers don’t correct this problem immediately and agree to make restitution to overcharged consumers.”


Suzio thanked Consumer Counsel Katz and the OCC staff for their ongoing efforts to protect state ratepayers.


“The OCC is a terrific watchdog for Connecticut ratepayers,” he said.  “It has been a pleasure working with them on behalf of consumers.”