Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014

Attorney General Kane concerned with spikes in consumer electricity bills this winter

Asks Pennsylvania consumers to send complaints and documentation promptly

HARRISBURG - Over the past few weeks, the Office of Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection and the independent Office of Consumer Advocate each have received hundreds of calls and complaints from consumers regarding unexpected and dramatic spikes in the cost of their electricity. Complaints suggest that in some circumstances consumer electricity costs increased as much as 300 percent in recent months. Many of the consumers affected appear to have recently switched to variable-rate pricing for their electricity.

Attorney General Kane is asking consumers to be proactive and quickly submit complaints about abnormal and extreme increases in electricity rates on recent utility bills.  Complaints should be sent with documentation on contracts, billing, and marketing from energy generation suppliers.

"These spikes in the price of electricity are alarming and have put many consumers, especially the poor and elderly, in a dire situation," Attorney General Kane said. "It is my duty to protect consumers and act on their behalf. We are looking at these price increases and will be prepared to take action to protect affected consumers."

The Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection is working collaboratively with the independent Office of Consumer Advocate to learn whether consumers have been improperly overcharged for their electricity.

Many factors may contribute to increased electric prices, including increased usage during a particularly cold winter season and rate fluctuations.  Attorney General Kane noted, however, that price gouging - increasing prices above any increased costs - during a state of emergency is prohibited in Pennsylvania. Governor Corbett declared a state of emergency on Feb. 5, 2014.

In order to be most effective in helping consumers, Attorney General Kane said consumers should file complaints with the Bureau of Consumer Protection and submit any of the following documentation: marketing materials, bills, contracts, terms and conditions, and sign-up/welcome letters. Documentation is required to fully understand whether consumers' rights have been violated and what action may be appropriate to address the spike in prices.

Instructions for submitting complaints are below. Attorney General Kane also encouraged consumers to call her Consumer Protection Helpline at 1-800-441-2555 or the Office of Consumer Advocate at 1-800-684-6560 with any additional questions or concerns.

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Media Contact: J.J. Abbott, jabbott@attorneygeneral.gov, 717-787-5211