HARTFORD - A state senator is asking that the deadline for Eversource and United Illuminating to make changes to the way their bills display third-party supplier information be moved from July 31 to March 31, 2019.
“To me this is an urgent problem,” said state Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden, adding that the utility companies have been aware of it for a while. “Every consumer has the right to expect that the bill their getting is accurate.”
The draft decision setting the deadline for July 31 came after the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority began looking into how third-party supplier information was displayed, The matter was first looked into in 2015, then more extensively this year.
Utility customers can either use standard service from Eversource or United Illuminating, which comes with a generic service rate for all customers, or get electricity from a third-party supplier.
The third-party option allows customers to shop around for a better price.
Third-party suppliers use the delivery and billing infrastructure of Eversource and United Illuminating.
Suzio became involved with the recent investigation when he discovered that his third-party rate from Spark Energy on his January bill was higher than what he was told the next month’s rate would be in December, resulting in an increase of $140 for one month.
Hearings were held over the summer, at which Eversource and United Illuminating staff acknowledged inaccuracies. Third-party suppliers are not providing accurate information in a timely manner, if at all, they contended, and they explained the changes that would be needed.
Those changes were estimated to cost nearly $700,000 for Eversource and $800,000 for UI, and could take up to nine months to make. The draft decision says the change costs are to be borne by the third party suppliers.
“We are currently reviewing PURAs draft decision and the proposed changes to customer bills and will continue to work with our regulators and legislators to address this important issue,” said Mitch Gross, a spokeman for Eversource, on whether a March deadline could be met. “We support additional measures that will ensure our customers receive clear and accurate rate information from their alternative supplier on their energy bill.”
“UI will make every effort to comply with any requirements set out by PURA in its final decision,” said Ed Crowder, spokesman for United Illuminating, in an email. “Suppliers offer a variety of rates and terms for customers who choose their services. Ultimately, it is the suppliers’ responsibility to provide timely and accurate billing information to their customers.”
“You shouldn’t be surprised when you open an electric bill,” said Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz alongside Suzio during a press conference at the Legislative Office Building.
The state’s office of Consumer Counsel helps regulate utilities, and is always available for help clarify a bill, Katz said.
A final decision is expected to be made within a month, after Eversource and United Illuminating submit written exceptions due next week. The oral argument deadline schedule is still being figured out.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.