HARRISBURG — Did you see an abnormally high spike in your electric bill recently, even considering the spate of cold weather? If you did, the state Attorney General wants to hear from you.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane is investigating whether electricity generation companies have been price gouging customers.
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 about unexpected and dramatic spikes in the cost of their electricity, according to a news release.
The complaints suggest that in some circumstances, consumers’ electricity costs increased as much as 300 percent in recent months. Many affected appear to have recently switched to variable-rate pricing for their electricity.
That’s what happened to John Keegan, who saw the electric bill for his pharmacy in Hazleton jump from about $1,000 in January to about $2,100 this month.
Keegan said he signed up with Direct Energy more than two years ago and had been paying a fixed rate of 7.02 cents per kilowatt hour. He said a company representative called him in June to tell him his contract was expiring and would be placed on a variable rate plan if he didn’t renew his contract at a fixed rate of 7.9 cents per kilowatt hour.
Keegan said he agreed to the new contract, but he didn’t know he was required to physically sign a new contract, and the company never sent him a new contract to sign, Keegan said.
Finally in February, a representative called to ask him again if he wanted to get back on a fixed-rate plan. It was then he realized his rate had jumped to 26 cents per kilowatt hour in the February bill. He also saw the rate had jumped to 10 cents/kwh on December’s bill and to 13 cents/kwh on January’s. The company won’t lower his rate until March.
“I can’t understand how they’re telling me it’s costing them 26 cents on the open market and yet locking me in at 7.9 cents starting in March,” Keegan said.
Kane is asking consumers to 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,” Kane said.
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.