Consumer and Business
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High number of complaints recorded by Pa. officials
Updated: Thursday, March 6 2014, 10:37 AM EST
By: Jackalyn Kovac
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission said as of Monday more than 7,000 people have contacted them regarding high electric bills for January and February.
Hundreds of 6 News viewers wrote on the WJAC-TV Facebook page about their high electric bills and difficulties of trying to pay them.
"I have PAG&E. Our rates when from $.08 kW/h to $.24 in a month. I called and was told it was a billing 'mistake' and was issued a refund check. I have yet to receive the check but I do have a reference number," wrote Kirsten Meintel MacLaughlin.
In February, many Pennsylvania residents opened their bill to see they were charged double and in some cases triple the normal amount, most of them had signed up for 'variable-rate plans.'
Pennsylvania regulators have urged consumers to file a complaint with the PUC. In late February state Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced her office would accept complaints. Since Feb. 27 the attorney general's office received close to 8,000 calls.
First Energy is one of the area's largest energy supplies. Spokesperson Scott Surgeoner said they have also received complaints and are working with customers depending on the plan they signed up for.
"Many customers have run into the issue over the past several months where they got an introductory low rate and after a certain period of time, that rate converted into a variable-rate, which led to the high bills in January and February," Surgeoner said.
Of the 7,000 people who contacted the PUC since Jan 1., more than 2,600 filed informal complaints thats roughly more than 10 times the number of complaints for January and February of 2013.
"By hearing from all of these consumers, it's giving [the Public Utility Commission] a picture of who the problem companies are [and] where the problem are stemming," said PUC press secretary Jennifer Kocher. "With that, we have begun an inquiry into all the electric generation suppliers. [We're] taking a look at their disclosure statements, how they deal with customers, the things they're telling customers and how they approach them in seeking a customer to switch to that particular supplier."
The PUC and First Energy recommend calling your electric provider to try to resolve the issue.
"We will work with customers to work out a payment agreement. Customers can contact their supplier, whoever that may be, and try to work with that supplier to see if that supplier will give a rebate, discounted rate, discounted price, whatever it may be," Surgeoner said. "If you're still not satisfied, we urge you to contact the PUC and file a complaint."
Click Here to file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission or call 1-800-692-7380.
Click Here to file a complaint with Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane or call her Consumer Protection Helpline at 1-800-441-2555 or the Office of Consumer Advocate at 1-800-684-6560.