State files complaints against electricity suppliers for excessive rates



Pennsylvania has filed complaints against five out-of-state electric generation suppliers before the state Public Utilities Commission after some consumers complained their electricity costs increased by as much as 300 percent.

The complaints, filed jointly by state Bureau of Consumer Protection and the Office of Consumer Advocate, ask the PUC to suspend or revoke the licenses of the following suppliers and impose civil penalties, as well as provide appropriate restitution including any necessary refunds: Energy Services Providers Inc, which does business as Pennsylvania Gas & Electric; IDT Energy Inc.; Respond Power LLC; Hiko Energy LLC; and Blue Pilot Energy LLC.

"The core function of the Consumer Protection Bureau is to advocate for consumers and investigate fraud on their behalf,” said Attorney General Kathleen Kane in a statement issued Friday. “We received thousands of complaints from consumers who could not pay their excessively high bills. Those consumers were deceived and we are taking those who participated in the deception to task.”

The complaints allege that the suppliers promised consumers low or "competitive" rates if they switched electricity suppliers. The actions also allege that prices charged to customers were not reflective of the cost to serve residential electricity needs, according to the attorney general’s office.

Between late February and mid-June, the attorney general’s office said it received about 42,600 telephone calls and 7,550 consumer complaints about electricity spikes. During that same time period, the consumer advocates office received more than 3,000 contacts from consumers.

The suppliers are accused of multiple violations of the Public Utility Commission’s orders and regulations, the Public Utility Code, the Consumer Protection Law and the Telemarketer Registration Act, the attorney general’s office said.

The Bureau of Consumer Protection said it found that many consumers complained their electricity supplier was switched without their consent. Unauthorized switching is considered "slamming" and is a violation of the PUC Regulations and the Consumer Protection Law.

The actions also allege that consumers were provided with copies of contracts or terms and conditions pages that did not comply with the Telemarketer Registration Act.

Joint complaints were filed before the Public Utility Commission by Senior Deputy Attorney General John Abel and Assistant Consumer Advocate Candis Tunilo.

Stephanie Ritenbaugh: sritenbaugh@post-gazette.com or 412-263-4910

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