Consumer advocates push for public hearing on submetering


    Three consumer groups are demanding public hearings before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, allowing people to sound off about submetering. (WSYX/WTTE)

    Three consumer groups are demanding public hearings before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, allowing people to sound off about submetering.

    Utility consumers want the PUCO to address unregulated reselling of utility services. That includes monopolization, overcharges, denial of competitive options and limited or nonexistent consumer protections, according to the motion filed Tuesday.

    The Office of the Ohio Consumer’ Counsel, the Ohio Poverty Law Center and Mark Whitt on behalf of numerous consumers filed the joint motion explaining consumers have no choice but to purchase utility services from a middleman because landlords or condominium associations have an exclusive partnership.

    Many times, the middleman can be reselling utilities at higher rates as uncovered in an ABC 6 On Your Side Investigation.

    The push for a public hearing comes following little action by the PUCO. In December of 2015, the PUCO launched an investigation into submetering practices in Ohio.

    The motion argues that a public hearing allows consumers to bring up rates, billing and service quality concerns.

    Roughly 30,000 central Ohioans are affected by submetering practices. The consumer groups want at least one hearing after 5 p.m. at the PUCO in downtown Columbus, allowing the maximum number of people to participate.

    The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel released the following statement:

    "Today's request for a local hearing is to give Ohio consumers the opportunity to voice concerns to their state government about the unregulated submetering of utility services. Submetering has left some consumers with higher charges and less protection than service offered by regulated public utilities or the competitive market. A solution for consumers is needed now."

    The major issues consumer advocates wanted addressed include:

    • Rates charged to consumers.
    • Quality and reliability of submetering services.
    • Consumer protections against disconnection.
    • Payment options.
    • Low-income assistance.
    • Protection against eviction for nonpayment.

    A spokesperson with the PUCO said, “We haven’t evaluated the motion yet and will certainly be reviewing it. Too early to say at this time though.”

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