Harrisburg, March 7, 2014 – State Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton/Lehigh) today announced she is introducing legislation that would benefit consumers who switch electric suppliers or choose a variable rate payment plan.

One of Boscola’s bills would require the state Public Utility Commission to shorten the waiting period before people can switch retail electric suppliers.  Another bill would mandate stronger consumer notification requirements for utility companies that offer variable rate deals.

“This brutal winter has caused some electric suppliers to drastically increase their consumer pricing,” Boscola said. “I see no reason why families wishing to opt for a less expensive provider should be saddled with these higher prices while they wait for some artificial waiting period to elapse.”

According to Boscola, consumers who opt to switch electric providers often have to wait up to 45 days. This delay includes a 10 day waiting period and a new meter-reading cycle before the switch can actually take place.

Under her legislation, the state Public Utility Commission would be required to develop regulations to shorten the timeframe for switching suppliers — not to exceed 15 days.

The Northampton lawmaker also introduced a second bill aimed at improving notification consumer requirements for electric suppliers that offer variable rate deals.

“Many customers who are on variable rate pricing were shocked when they opened their latest electric bill,” Boscola said. “Exorbitant prices for variable rate electricity, along with increased usage, have caused unnecessary financial stress in many households throughout Pennsylvania.”

Boscola said many people do not understand or anticipate the potentially huge price swings that can occur as part of variable rate deals. Her legislation would require electric suppliers to:

  • adhere to a 24- hour notification requirement to alert residential customers at times when their variable rate increased by 200 percent or more from the previous hourly rate;
  • post their variable rate publicly on their website — with continuous real-time updates; and
  • mandate person-to-person communication to clearly and plainly disclose the full details of variable rate plans, including: that the variable rate is uncapped, the market in which the rate is derived from, and the full terms and conditions of the contract the customer is entering.

“The whole point of the electric competition law was to empower consumers to choose a supplier that best fits their needs,” Boscola said. “For most customers, pricing is the top priority. This is why we cannot tolerate the existing system that saddles these families with sky high electric rates while they endure some senseless and arbitrary waiting period.

“We also need to see to it that people who choose variable rate deals know exactly what they are getting into.”

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