PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Lt. Governor Daniel J. McKee and Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin announced today the two have intervened in National Grid's Energy Procurement case now pending before the Public Utilities Commission to request the termination of the "billing adjustment" practice that has left many customers facing unexpected charges on their electric bills this winter.
With skyrocketing electricity rates this year, many residential customers and small businesses are switching to electricity suppliers offering significantly lower rates than National Grid only to discover they face a "billing adjustment," which is the bill recalculation to cover the difference between the default fixed-rate basic service and a variable rate.
Ratepayers have contacted the Office of Attorney General, the Office of Lt. Governor and the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers to file complaints about the billing adjustment, which can run hundreds or even thousands of dollars depending on energy usage. At a joint press conference, Leah Sandberg of Sandberg Machine, a family-owned business in Burrillville, shared her story of being charged $1,845 by National Grid after switching to an electricity supplier offering lower rates.
"Consumers have been left in the dark, so to speak, about the potential costs of switching from National Grid to another electricity supplier. While the billing adjustment may be legal, the practice is a shock to consumers looking to benefit from a competitive electric marketplace," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "As the cost of energy continues to be an issue, we anticipate more competition coming into the Rhode Island marketplace. That is a good thing, but we need to make sure there are no hidden fees and costs when switching. I am urging the PUC to eliminate the billing adjustment practice, as well as require National Grid and the other electricity suppliers to make the process of switching more transparent so the consumer can make an educated decision on choosing an electricity supplier."
Lt. Governor McKee plans to submit by the April 17 deadline expert testimony on the billing adjustment practice, noting that neighboring states are already taking action to end it. The Division of Public Utilities in Massachusetts just this week moved to eliminate it for small businesses and residential customers. New Hampshire regulators negotiated a settlement recently with one utility, which will provide refunds to the customers it charged this year. In Rhode Island, a public hearing before the PUC on the matter is scheduled for June 4, 2015.
"Rhode Island has lagged behind other states in fostering a competitive retail market for electricity. Part of the reason is the billing adjustment they face when they leave National Grid for another supplier," said Lt. Governor McKee. "The adjustment is unfair and deceptive. We can and must do better for small businesses and residential ratepayers. Eliminating the billing adjustment at the earliest opportunity will encourage the full development of competition in Rhode Island."
Contact: Erika Niedowski, 401-222-1445, firstname.lastname@example.org