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    Monday, March 04, 2024

    Connecticut electric bills to become more consumer friendly July 1

    In an effort to offer residential consumers electric-utility information without hidden surprises, the state’s largest energy providers are unveiling redesigned bills starting Wednesday, July 1, that will make it easier to keep costs down.

    The bills that consumers receive monthly from Eversource Energy and The United Illuminating Co. are expected to help customers compare rates among electric suppliers in the state’s open market. Consumers also will be able to more easily determine rate expiration dates so they can avoid spikes related to variable pricing, officials said.

    "We're far ahead of the curve," said state Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz in a phone interview Monday. "Connecticut is leading the nation on this."

    Legislation requiring electric utilities to update their billing information passed last year in the General Assembly in response to huge spikes in some electric bills based on cold temperatures and record-high natural gas prices in 2013. Consumers also bitterly complained about the practice, called slamming, in which some alternative electric suppliers offered teaser rates that were purportedly fixed but rose dramatically without warning after the end of a specific term.

    Katz said the new bills that consumers will begin receiving this month are just the first step in a rollout of changes meant to save consumers money. The second part of the rollout, Jan. 1 of next year, will require utilities to include next month's electric rates so consumers can review prices before deciding where to buy their energy.

    Katz compared the current system of consumers learning about rates after they have used the electricity to buying apples for a pie and not discovering the cost until after the dessert had been baked.

    "It's crazy," she said. "It's a crazy system we are trying to fundamentally change."

    Katz noted that a study of electricity rates conducted in 2013-14 showed that nearly nine out of 10 consumers on alternative plans paid more than they would have under the standard Eversource rates, while the same was true for seven out of 10 customers who otherwise would have been on UI plans.

    Over a one-month study period for each of these groups, consumers paid out nearly $14 million more using alternative companies than they would have under standard Eversource and UI rates, according to an Office of Consumer Counsel report last year.

    "We've received thousands of complaints from Connecticut's electric customers about being misled, overcharged or switched from one rate to another by third-party suppliers — often without their consent," Katz said in a statement.

    "The features on the new bill will help prevent seniors and other vulnerable populations from being taken advantage of," added John Erlingheuser, advocacy director for AARP, another strong proponent of consumer protections.

    The new bill will show not only the rates of alternative suppliers but will compare the billing total for these companies next to the amount consumers would have been charged had they stayed with the standard rate.

    In addition, consumers will be directed to the Energize Connecticut website at www.energizect.com/compare-energy-suppliers where they can compare the rates for all energy suppliers in the state.

    l.howard@theday.com

    Twitter: @KingstonLeeHow

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