By: L.M. Sixel |
The number of electricity complaints and concerns lodged with Texas regulators during the past year stands hit new three-year high, reversing a generally downward trend in complaints about electricity service, according to a new study.
Texans filed 5,400 complaints and inquiries with the Public Utility Commission last year, nearly 29 percent more than the previous year, according to the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power, a group that buys electricity on behalf of municipal governments that reviewed electricity complaints and inquiries filed with the commission, data obtained under the Texas open records law and publicly available commission reports. Unlike the commission, which tallies only official complaints, the coalition includes consumer inquires because the calls and emails often reflect concerns about electricity providers even if consumers don’t go the extra step of filing formal actions.
The recent spike of complaints and inquiries could reflect confusing offers in the marketplace like multi-tiered pricing plans and promotional offers like free nights and weekends that end up costing more than expected, energy experts say.
“We hope it’s an anomaly,” said R.A. Dyer, policy analyst with the coalition, who noted that last year marked the first time in four years the number of complaints has increased and in percentage terms, it’s the biggest in more than a decade. It’s important to keep a close eye on these trend lines, he said.
Billing was the single biggest problem for Texas consumers who logged 2,351 billing disputes and concerns last year, reflecting a 32 percent increase over the previous year, according to the coalition. Questions about meters including accuracy claims and tampering concerns came in second with 678 complaints, a 77 percent increase over the previous year.
Texans received $169,000 in electricity-related refunds last year, compared to $157,000 the previous year.