The rate at which Texas electric companies violate customer protection rules has increased for the second consecutive year, according to a new report.
The report also found that while the overall number of electric complaints filed with the Public Utility Commission decreased by 10 percent over the last year, the rate for which electric companies were found in violation of commission rules nonetheless increased by more than 30 percent. The report was issued by an Austin-based consulting firm, Regulatory Compliance Services.
The growing problem has captured the attention of state Sen. Wendy Davis, who has filed Senate Bill 602 to make complaint and violation data more easily available for online inspection. The bill is up for consideration Tuesday in a key Senate Committee.
The Regulatory Compliance Services report found that Retail Electric Providers accounted for 4,984 of the 6,618 complaints investigated by the PUC during the last calendar year, according to a synopsis of the report by the online Energy Choice Matters publication. The Texas Coalition for Affordable Power, a coalition of cities, has found separately that customer complaints have skyrocketed since the state deregulated its electricity market.
Senate Bill 602, by Sen. Davis, would help address those concerns by authorizing reforms to the powertochoose.com website. Created by the PUC, the website lists electric companies and prices in a sortable fashion. Under Senate Bill 602, the PUC would post more complete complaint data as well as information about enforcement actions against retail electric providers. In addition, SB 602 would require the PUC to update the online data at least once every three months.
TCAP issued a report earlier this year finding that annual electric complaints filed with the PUC remain at a level five times greater than the pre-electric deregulation average. TCAP, which supports SB 602, also found an uptick in complaints regarding smart meters and the controversial policy of blocking some households from switching electric companies.
Customers wishing to file complaints regarding their electric service 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.
TCAP also supports the inclusion of complaint data on Energy Facts Labels for all retail electric providers. These labels can be found on the powertochoose website. Texans utilizing the powertochoose website also should be able to sort companies by complaint rates, as well as by price and terms of service.
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.