Electric suppliers would have new guidelines to follow in their dealings with customers and potential customers, and consumers will have a clearer view of their rights in dealing with these competitive energy supply companies under legislation introduced by Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly).
The “Electric Supplier Consumer Bill of Rights,” 2015-H 5978, would impose a series of regulatory requirements upon the electrical generation and distribution industry for the protection of consumers. It outlines various kinds of information that would have to be provided to consumers and sets procedures for the sale and solicitation of electric generation services by an electric supplier.
“This will give consumers the information they need to consider pricing options offered by electric retailers and will allow them to choose the kind of energy supplier and plan that is best for them,” said Representative Kennedy, who chairs the House Committee on Corporations. “Electricity consumers have the right to safe and reliable service, to fair credit and security deposit policies, and to dispute a bill or file a complaint. This legislation spells out those rights in black and white and would make them law.”
Patterned on a recently-enacted Connecticut law, the legislation outlines consumer rights for the recently more competitive energy marketplace and ensures, as they make choices from a broader range of suppliers, that they are protected from unfair, deceptive, fraudulent and anti-competitive practices.
“The market is growing in such a way that consumers have choices,” said Representative Kennedy. “Making informed choices will depend on receiving accurate and understandable information from their electric supplier. Consumer rights and supplier responsibilities are clearly and thoroughly spelled out in this legislation.”
The legislation, for instance, requires the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers to redesign the standard billing format for residential customers to better enable them to compare pricing policies and charges among suppliers. It also specifies what kind of information must be provided to consumers, on a quarterly basis, such as the electric generation service rate, the term and expiration date of such rates, and any change to the standard offer rate.
As further protection for consumers, the legislation will prohibit electric suppliers from releasing information about the customer for marketing purposes without the express consent of the customer.
“While the language of this legislation might appear highly technical to any regular electric customer, what is important is the end result – and that is to create greater disclosure in the electric supplier market and to enable consumers to control, and hopefully reduce, their electric bills through better information and more choice,” said Representative Kennedy.
The legislation is currently before the House Committee on Corporations. Co-sponsors include Rep. John J. Carnevale (D-Dist. 13, Providence, Johnston), Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), Rep. Cale P. Keable (D-Dist. 47, Burrillville, Glocester) and Rep. Kenneth A. Marshall (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren).