Tuesday, October 6, 2015

NJ lawmakers seek to eliminate utility bill rate shockers

bill shock
Consumers might be better protected from unexpected spikes in their utility bills if they choose to switch gas or electric suppliers under a legislative package being pushed by the Legislature, Tom Johnson reports in NJ Spotlight.
The three-bill package, now headed to the full Senate for a vote, is designed to protect customers from unscrupulous suppliers who promise savings on their utility bills that they might not deliver.
The legislation was spurred by events nearly two years ago when customers who had switched energy suppliers were socked with huge hikes in their monthly bills, largely because an unusually frigid winter sent natural-gas prices soaring.
Some energy suppliers had not locked in prices for the natural gas that their customers use to heat homes, costs they passed on to those customers. As a result, unhappy consumers flooded state regulators with complaints about the increases.
Many customers were unaware that their bills were allowed to fluctuate under so-called variable-price contracts.
The issue also led to a civil complaint against three energy suppliers by the state attorney general’s office, accusing them of defrauding customers by promising them they would save money on their utility bills, when, in fact, prices skyrocketed.
To try and guard against that, the package of legislation aims to establish requirements and contract standards for gas and electric suppliers asking customers to switch from their incumbent utilities.

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