Pa. regulators examining skyrocketing electric bills

After the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission received nearly 800 complaints from consumers seeing their electric rates skyrocket, commissioners have voted to more closely examine how the utility companies are marketing their plans to customers and whether they’re doing enough to disclose the terms of those plans.

Stephanie Thompson, who lives in West Manchester Township, York County, entered into a variable-rate plan with North American Power last summer.

In September, her bill was calculated at about 8 cents per kilowatt hour, which translated to a bill of about $60.

This month, she got a bill for nearly $900.

“I just wanted to cry since we have two children, we’re on one income. It just seems outrageous,” said Thompson.

This month’s bill was calculated at a rate of about 18 cents per kilowatt hour, more than double the rate in September. Additionally, because of the cold weather, her usage more than tripled.

Thompson said, “It’s had to push some other bills back. Especially on the cold days, you don’t want your electric turned off. So, what are you supposed to do?”

North American Power released the following statement to FOX43:

“Because of this year’s close-to-record cold weather, winter demand levels increased significantly, and have severely impacted electricity prices. 

“Although not required by any regulatory body, North American Power notified all of its variable rate customers of the increase in rates, and encouraged them to contact us to switch to a fixed rate plan.  Many customers have taken advantage of this offer and have switched to fixed rate plan.

“As a normal course of business, North American Power notifies all fixed rate customers, whose fixed rate terms are about to expire, and provides them the option to renew into a new fixed rate plan.”

State Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-15th) expressed skepticism Thursday night about the reasons for the price spikes.

“When we’ve seen situations of tripling, quadrupling electric bills whether there’s something else going on,” said Teplitz.

Teplitz also said more should be done to educate consumers on what options they have in choosing a utility company.

“I don’t think the state has done a really good job to help people make a choice and be able to understand the process for making a choice,” said Teplitz.

During the forum, representatives from the PUC, the Attorney General’s office and PPL answered customers’ questions and guided people through the website papowerswitch.com, which allows consumers to shop around and compare electric rates.

Gladys Brown, a commissioner with the PUC, said she also wants customers to be able to switch more quickly from one provider to another when rates go too high.

She’s calling on companies to make disclosure statements more user-friendly and to more clearly state that variable rates could increase without a cap.

“A lot of time (the companies) were just saying, ‘We have a competitive rate.’ And, they weren’t saying what that competitive rate was,” said Brown.

Thompson said she’s switching to Met-Ed, which has offered her a fixed-rate plan. She hopes to have her bill paid off in the next several months.

8 comments

  • Cindy Lawson

    What if you live in a borough that does not allow you to switch companies? Mine computes all electric, water, sewer, trash, and recycling into one bill. We have no idea where the actual electric power comes from. I’ve seen my bill jump $200 and I have oil heat. Just not right.

  • popstarweasel

    If the company is able to give a fixed rate which is a lot lower than 18 cents per KW, then just give the lower rate to everyone, and stop ROBBING PEOPLE!! My electric went from a norm of $250.00 to over $600.00. I had to just accept a higher monthly budget amount.

  • Derek

    Watch out for American Power & Gas–they promised me over the phone that their rate would never be more than 3 cents higher than PPL's rate. They raised my rate from 6.9 cents /KwH to 24 cents per KwH overnight after 2 bills and when I called to complain their rep said over they phone she had never heard of a 3 cent guarantee. I was promised this by 2 different reps before switching. They are absolutely crooked and need to be investigated for fraud. This PA Power Switch program needs to be careful who they approve as suppliers.

  • mike

    American Power Partners raised my rates from $.08 to $139 in one month when I switched they raised it again to $.24 they are offering no rebates or any rate reduction for anyone. Their phone system keeps you on hold for about one hour then hangs up on your their email customer service form gets you nowhere as I have used it once per day for about 40 days no response. Now they have switched their phone number I guess to try and hide. But something does need to be done about buying electricity without first getting a price I mean here in Pennslvania we get billed for power used with no idea what the rate will be and it take another 30 days after the high bill to switch of course the company you are leaving has no incentive to help you out as your leaving. Real pirates from the caribbean American Power Partners.

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