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Connecticut Passes Bill to Protect Electric Customers

The Connecticut House of Representatives voted unanimously to approve a new set of regulations for third-party electricity providers.

The Senate approved the bill last week, also in a unanimous vote. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy supports the measure.

The legislation takes aim at the dozens of competitive electricity providers that have set up shop in Connecticut since deregulation in 1998. Approximately 50 are doing business currently.

A series of consumer complaints about spiking variable rates and marketing tactics spurred both the legislature and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to act.

The bill directs PURA to impose a new billing format by July 1, 2015, that will clearly disclose the providers’ rate compared with the standard offer, the length of contract, cancellation fees and any change to the rate due to take place in the next billing cycle.

The bill also prohibits electric providers from raising rates for the first three billing cycles of new contracts after July 1, 2014. It also requires electric suppliers to notify residential customers in advance of rate changes and prohibits charging cancellation or early termination fees to residents who move within state and do not change providers.

“It really gives consumers more information than I think any kind of billing system ever did,” said Rep. Lonnie Reed, D-Branford, co-chairwoman of the Energy and Technology Committee. “It’s very, very valuable information.”

The bill addresses a major source of constituent complaints, especially from the elderly: aggressive marketing by electric providers, some of whom entice customers with low variable rates that jump with little warning.

AARP, the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, ConnPIRG and the Legal Assistance Resource Center say the bill was too deferential to the interests of electric providers in that it failed to cap variable rates. They unsuccessfully lobbied House members to make changes.

“I do stand in support of this. I hope we go much farther next session,‚ÄĚ said Rep. Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford.