Pa. investigating complaints of spiking winter electric bills

  • Katie Colaneri

The state agency that oversees Pennsylvania’s utilities has received numerous complaints from residents who say their electric bills have unexpectedly and dramatically increased this winter. The Public Utility Commission says it’s gotten 2,580 complaints since January 1, the Associated Press reports. 
The PUC and the state attorney general’s office say they are investigating the spikes to see if customers are being overcharged. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review recently reported that most of the complaints come from consumers who’ve switched to variable-rate plans based on the wholesale price of electricity.
More from the Tribune-Review:

Most electric consumers in the state ­— the 3.4 million who still buy from utility companies — are likely unaffected because their rates are frozen for long periods and regulated by the commission. There are 2.2 million customers who buy service from deregulated suppliers, and it’s an unknown number of them who have variable-rate plans and could be affected.
The PUC does not keep a tally of how many have variable-rate plans. Some people signed up directly for rates that could go up and down based on the market’s whims. Others were switched automatically when their fixed-rate deals expired.
Electricity prices spiked as the regional power grid saw record winter demand from people turning up the heat and staying indoors during extreme cold that hit the area during the past seven weeks. Variable-rate plans jumped as high as 38 cents per kilowatt hour compared with 8 cents for people who stuck with their default utility company, according to the Office of Consumer Advocate.

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