- Associated Press - Monday, May 5, 2014

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Responding to hundreds of complaints from irate consumers about sharply higher prices and deceptive marketing, Connecticut lawmakers have passed protections promising more transparency from electricity suppliers.

The Connecticut House on Monday joined the Senate to unanimously approve consumer protections promising more transparent billing and marketing by electricity suppliers. Lawmakers in the House passed the measure, 145-0, after it passed in the Senate last week, 36-0.

“I certainly went in so infuriated,” Rep. Lonnie Reed, House chairwoman of the Energy and Technology Committee, said at the start of a three-hour debate.

The legislation does not target companies that treat their customers well, she said, adding that ,many electric retailers have saved money for their customers.


“We’ve given the bad companies real notice that either clean up your act or get out of the state,” she said.

The legislation calls for new bills to display additional account information such as rates, the term and expiration date of current rates. The measure also requires utilities to allow customers to change service within 72 hours of their request, reduce early termination fees, require notice of new contract terms and other changes.

John Erlingheuser, state advocacy director for AARP Connecticut, said the legislation provides transparency in customer bills, but does not include stronger consumer protections. For example, he said the measure does not prevent electric suppliers from automatically switching consumers into a new contract with potentially higher rates when the previous contract expires.

Elderly customers, for example, might be hospitalized or otherwise unable to stop electricity suppliers from automatically switching them into contracts with variable rates that could climb sharply, Erlingheuser said.

“We’re disappointed the bill does not include strong consumer protections that would stop the practices that got us into this in the first place,” he said.

The legislation heads to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy who supports it.

“This bill will help put an end to misleading and deceptive marketing practices,” he said.