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Senate Passes Electric Supplier Disclosure, Advocates Say Not Good Enough

by Hugh McQuaid | Apr 29, 2014 6:39pm
(8) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Corporate Watch, Energy, Environment, Transparency

Hugh McQuaid photo

Energy Co-chairs Sen. Bob Duff and Rep. Lonnie Reed

The Senate voted unanimously Tuesday for legislation to require more transparency from third-party electricity suppliers and reduce deceptive marketing tactics in the industry.

Senators on both sides of the aisle reported hearing complaints from constituents about the suppliers, who attract new customers with offers of low energy rates that can expire quickly and leave consumers paying more than standard rates.

The bill will require suppliers to maintain their initial sign-on electric rates for at least three months. It also requires that electric bills include the standard rate, so consumers can compare it with the rate they’re paying. The legislation also gives customers greater flexibility to drop their electric supplier.

Energy Committee Co-Chairman Sen. Bob Duff said policymakers have “heard from consumers loud and clear” on their electric bills.

“They kind of looked at their bill one day . . . and it spiked without any notification or any type of transparency,” he said. “What we’re looking to do is bring about some greater transparency and disclosure.”

Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, said lawmakers have been swamped with calls on the issue this year because of “wild fluctuations” in the variable rate market, which have led to unexpectedly high electric bills.

“When you’re talking about people that are on tight budgets to begin with and a $400 electric bill turned into $1,000 per month, it was a budget-buster,” he said. “That’s why our phones rang off the hook.”

Lawmakers announced they would take up the issue this year before the session started. However, advocates said the final product adopted Tuesday does not go far enough to protect consumers.

Last month, Connecticut AARP released a public opinion poll designed to push legislators toward enacting strong consumer protection policy rather than what AARP advocacy director John Erlingheuser called “some window dressings so people can say we’ve done something.”

The group pushed for a cap on variable electric rates when policymakers including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Attorney General George Jepsen, and Senate President Donald Williams announced a compromise proposal.

After the Senate approved the bill Tuesday, AARP released a statement from Erlingheuser saying the legislation added some transparency — but not enough.

Erlingheuser said the bill “does little to address the types of egregious practices of some third-party electric suppliers that got us into this crisis in the first place. AARP Connecticut and other consumer advocates, including ConnPIRG, CCAG and LARCC, are calling on legislators to amend Senate Bill 2 to include the strongest possible consumer protections.”

The groups, which include the Connecticut Citizens Action Group and the Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut, called for an amendment to cap variable rates and ban all cancellation fees as well as enact additional disclosure requirements.

During the Senate debate, lawmakers acknowledged the legislation would not meet the requirements of all the advocates.

“Maybe not everything that every advocacy group wanted is in this bill, but this bill moves us forward in a giant way toward protecting consumers, empowering them to have the information they need, then make changes when there are spikes in the electric market,” Williams said.

The bill will still need to be approved by the House. In a statement, Malloy commended the Senate vote.

“This bill will help put an end to misleading and deceptive marketing practices. It will give our families the information they need to evaluate pricing options offered by electric retailers and to choose the plan that is best for them and their pocketbooks,” he said.

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(8) Comments

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | April 29, 2014  7:08pm

DrHunterSThompson

This bill is bogus. They might as well done nothing.  People got screwed this year, yet the industry wins the battle? Serious?

Gutless. This bill, it’s proponent, leadership, governor - all gutless. This is a huge issue for many. This bill should have made these practices very few and far between. Ratepayers need refunds.

This is one of the most cowardly bills of the past 7-8 years. I suggest we vote out each and every senator that voted for this - it speaks volumes about their character.

HST

posted by: shinningstars122 | April 30, 2014  6:00am

shinningstars122

It clear that more work is to be done.

It is a complete mess orchestrated by these suppliers.

Honestly all this information should be on your monthly bill and on the web site version so you know exactly the rate you are paying and what the duration of the agreement is.

I guess fracking will not be lowering prices for consumers either?

Typical.

I guess this was one issue Democrats and Republicans were in agreement this session?

They produced a water down slap on the wrist.

Thanks kids.

posted by: Lawrence | April 30, 2014  7:51am

It was 36-0, HST.

I believe your opinion is in the minority.

BTW, where are all the outraged comments from the right-wing lunatic fringe declaring yet another war on private-sector, for-profit businesses?

Didn’t every Republican just vote to put more onerous government regulations on a free-market system that knows better than ‘the nanny state?’

I hear crickets….

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | April 30, 2014  1:09pm

DrHunterSThompson

Lawrence,

Go back to sleep will ya? Do some research, find out who the industry lobbyist is. Then write something intelligent.

HST

posted by: mmal231294 | April 30, 2014  1:50pm

I am still a little confused and need to see the actual bill. Personally I just want to see it mandated that the max length of contract be 1 year and at expiration revert back to CL&P/UI “standard offer”. I got burned with a 1 year fixed at .079, not realizing that at year end it did NOT revert to CL&P. The contract was written such that it continued with this new provider but at a MUCH higher rate…until I was smart enough to take a hard look at my bill, and switch to another provider. Anyone know if this is in the bill?

posted by: Santa | April 30, 2014  4:35pm

All these cry babies switched from regulated electric suppliers to unregulated ones and were too lazy to follow the market.  The bills go up because they were too lazy to be on the ball and change companies.  Now they have forced our legislature to be their baby sitters.  The legislature should really be spending time on important issues.

posted by: Lawrence | May 1, 2014  6:01am

Still waiting for the right-wing zombies to attack.

Here are two talking points to get the GOP zombies going:“anti business” and “nanny state”

posted by: RichTut2014 | May 3, 2014  11:58am

This was a diversion from CL&P rate increase of 22%. Other suppliers are upto 1or2 cents per kilowatt less. Yes they must be watched carefully because of variable rates, and notifications that are in small print (or none), and upto 3 months to change suppliers (including CL&P).  Electric heat is only source for winter survival in my household (and yes all is buttoned-up while conservation is practiced). At least amount, the increase is $1,200. per year to $2400. per year with CL&P (depends on average temperature). The parent, Northeast Utilities, is getting as much as possible from Connecticut consumers. Much can be done, but what has happened is an insult to us Connecticut Yankees !