High winter electricity rates spur legislation

By - Last modified: March 19, 2014 at 10:03 AM

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After more than 12,000 calls to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and more than 4,700 formal complaints about variable-rate electricity prices this winter, the state is looking to ease the process of shopping for less expensive electricity.

Severely cold weather in January and February sent price of electricity skyrocketing for customers with variable rate plans.

Many consumers were outraged, said Jennifer Kocher, press secretary for the state PUC.

"Some people felt they were misled by suppliers," she told Lehigh Valley Business. Many more felt frustrated with the amount of time it takes to change suppliers.

In response, Pennsylvania State Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton/Lehigh, has introduced legislation (Senate Bill 1297) aimed at making it easier for consumers to shop for less expensive electricity and "avoid sticker shock when they agree to variable rate pricing deals," she said.

The bill would require that the PUC adopt regulations that would shorten the waiting period before people can switch electric suppliers.

Currently, consumers have to wait up to 45 days. The bill would shorten the waiting period to not exceed five business days.

In a release, the commission said it views the time it takes for consumers to switch suppliers as unfavorable to those consumers who may wish to move away from an existing rate or onto a new rate under certain market conditions.

Other measures proposed by the legislation include the requirement that electricity suppliers post their prices publicly on their website and continuously update it. They also must electronically notify customers if a variable rate is to increase by 50 percent or more from the month prior.

"I am satisfied that my bill would tighten and clarify the state's electric choice law," Boscola said. "It will certainly help consumers save money and make more informed decisions when they choose a pricing plan."

Stacy Wescoe

Stacy Wescoe

Writer and online editor Stacy Wescoe has her finger on the pulse of the business community in the Greater Lehigh Valley and keeps you up-to-date with technology and trends, plus what coworkers and competitors are talking about around the water cooler — and on social media. She can be reached at stacyw@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 104. Follow her on Twitter at @morestacy and on Facebook. Circle Stacy Wescoe on .

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