Malloy says electricity market changes will benefit Connecticut consumers

On July 10, Gov. Dannel Malloy announced several changes to laws concerning Connecticut’s electricity market, which went into effect July 1.

The changes not only create “greater transparency,” according to a press release from the governor’s office, but also increase “protections for residential consumers by requiring electricity suppliers to provide very clear and specific information about how much they charge for electricity.”

According to the press release, the changes stem from a legislative package the governor introduced, known as the “Electronic Supplier Consumers’ Bill of Rights,” designed to address consumer complaints about Connecticut’s electric supplier market.

“The ‘Bill of Rights’ will help put an end to misleading and deceptive marketing practices by giving Connecticut consumers the information and resources they need to shop around for the best price, choose the electric retailer that works best for them and, ultimately, to save money on their monthly electricity bill,” said Gov. Malloy.

“This is the commitment to ensuring our residents have access to cheaper, cleaner and more reliable power.”

In June, Gov. Malloy signed Public Act No. 14-75, “An Act Concerning Electric Customer Consumer Protection,” into law, which implemented several of the Bill of Rights’ provisions, including:

  • Disclosure of comparative rates on customers’ bills to provide customers with information to make informed choices.
  • Disclosure of high and low rates charged or offered to allow customers and the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) the ability to compare rates being charged by the same supplier to different customers in the same period.
  • Required fixed rates for at least three months if a supplier markets a variable rate plan with an introductory “teaser” rate.
  • Quick switching, at customers’ request, back to standard service within 48 hours, and to another supplier within 30 days, to prevent customers from being stuck for multiple billing periods with a competitive supplier charging excessive rates. After one year, the law requires utilities to switch customers to other supplier within 48 hours.
  • Allow customers greater freedom of choice by requiring suppliers to reduce or eliminate early termination fees.
  • Affirmative consent for variable-rate contracts to prevent companies from taking advantage of customers’ lack of information.

“Information is power, and Connecticut’s electric customers deserve to know exactly what they are signing up for when shopping for services,” said State Senator Bob Duff (D-25), who is also the chairman of the Energy & Technology Committee.

“This ‘Bill of Rights’ for consumers will make our electric marketplace both more transparent and more competitive.”

According to Gov. Malloy’s press release: PURA received more than 1,300 consumer complaints about electric suppliers and aggregators this year, and the state’s electric utility companies reported that some suppliers were charging rates well above the standard service rates of just over nine cents per kilowatt hour.

Under the new law, regulators have the power to “crack down on bad actors and deceptive practices in the industry” by:

  • Requiring PURA to issue new regulations within a year to target abusive sales practices.
  • Authorizing funds to be made available to PURA to increase enforcement staff in order to increase market oversight and allow PURA to respond more effectively to abuses in the market.

Attorney General George Jepsen said while consumers may see many of these important reforms immediately, “our work is not yet complete.”

“My office will continue to advocate for electric consumers as PURA begins...to develop new regulations to address...all areas where we have received consumer complaints,” said Mr. Jepsen.

State Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz said the new laws will empower consumers with information “to take back some control over their energy costs.”

“Too many customers have been surprised by outrageously high variable rates that they only found out they were being charged after the fact,” she said.

“This law goes a long way toward ensuring consumers have no more surprises in their electric bills.”