Unfair and anticompetitive. That’s how some members of the public and consumer advocates have characterized proposed rules that would keep Texans from getting electric service if they owe an outstanding balance to a previous electric provider.

These complaints and others were aired during a May 17th public hearing in Austin regarding proposed changes to the Public Utility Commission’s rules for electricity service disconnections. The changes would modify eligibility requirements for deferred payment plans and other low-income customer protections. They also modify the disconnection notice requirements as they pertain to customers with life-threatening medical conditions. Finally, the proposed rules contain the controversial switch-hold provisions intended to keep customers from changing retail providers without first paying any balance they owe to their previous provider.

Various groups offered comments on the proposed rules. Some participants requested removal of language that would prevent customers with battery backups for medical devices from qualifying for special protection. Participants also said that seriously ill and disabled customers should never face disconnections. Participants overwhelmingly weighed in against the switch-hold portion of the proposed rules.