Pa. House committee approves protections for electricity customers

A bill to help protect electricity customers with variable rate contracts from price spikes is moving forward in the state House of Representatives.

The House Consumer Affairs Committee unanimously passed House Bill 2104 on Wednesday after it was amended to limit variable rate increases to no more than 30 percent per billing cycle. The amended bill would also speed up the time it takes to process customers’ requests to switch suppliers to five business days from the current practice of between 11 and 40 days.

The bill, sponsored by committee chairman Rep. Robert Godshall, R-Montgomery, also requires electric suppliers to provide clearer contract terms, gives the Public Utility Commission specific authority to investigate complaints about rates and sets penalties for violations.

The PUC has said it received more than 15,000 calls about high electric bills over the winter when storms and freezing temperatures caused variable rate bills to rise dramatically as wholesale electricity prices surged. Some customers saw electricity costs increase as much as 300 percent.

The consumer protection bill, which will now be considered by the full House, is one of several attempts by legislators, regulators and companies to address the price shocks and help prevent future ones. The PUC and state Attorney General’s office are investigating the high rates, some companies have offered their customers rebates and the PUC has proposed new regulations to make it easier to understand contracts and quicker to switch suppliers.

Laura Legere:

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