After four straight years of declines, electric consumer complaints increased in Texas during the 2014 fiscal year, according to an analysis of regulatory data by the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power.
But despite that setback, Texans nonetheless filed the second fewest number of complaints with the state’s Public Utility Commission in fiscal 2014 than they have filed during any year since the beginning of retail electric deregulation 12 years ago, the analysis shows.
“The uptick in complaints this year is worth monitoring, as they appear to reflect continued frustrations in the market,” said Jay Doegey, TCAP board president. “However, complaints reached historic post-deregulation lows during the previous fiscal year, and the 2014 numbers also remain well below the post-deregulation average. So that’s the good news.”
For its analysis, TCAP reviewed 17 years of complaint data at the PUC, the state agency that oversees the Texas electricity market. The analysis reveals that after four years of declines and reaching a historic low in FY 2013, the number of complaints or electricity-related inquiries registered with the PUC ticked upwards by 6.7 percent in FY 2014.
The analysis shows a total of 7,608 complaints or inquiries registered with the PUC in FY 2014, which is up from 7,129 in FY 2013. Increases also were observed in various sub-categories of complaints, including those relating to billing, meters and provision of service.
This year’s analysis reaffirms previous findings that Texans have filed significantly more complaints after the transition to deregulation in 2002. Although population growth and the increased use of the Internet to facilitate the complaint process can explain some of the increase, it’s unlikely that those factors alone account for the dramatic differences.
Texans can find complaint data for individual companies at the state’s electricity shopping website, powertochoose.org. Under website modifications advocated by TCAP, search query results now include complaint data along with pricing information for retail electric providers.
Electricity customers wishing to file complaints can do so through the PUC’s Office of Customer Protection, which can be reached at 1-888-782-8477, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or online at http://puc.state.tx.us/consumer/complaint/Complaint.aspx. When appropriate, the PUC will investigate such complaints, and may sanction companies if a rule violation is found.
Is a policy analyst for TCAP, a coalition of cities and other political subdivisions that purchase electricity in the deregulated market for their own governmental use. Because high energy costs can impact municipal budgets and the ability to fund essential services, TCAP, as part of its mission, actively promotes affordable energy policies. High energy prices also place a burden on local businesses and home consumers.