The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio ruled Wednesday it could regulate submetering companies that charge outrageous prices to renters for utility services.
The Commission is trying to stop price gouging by companies that buy power at wholesale and resell or distribute it to those living in apartments or condominiums.
Framework has been set to apply a test on a case-by-case basis in complaints brought before the PUCO. If it's determined the submetering company is overcharging customers, the PUCO plans to step in and regulate that company, the same as a utility.
"It is our hope that the path we've charted today will serve both to discipline pricing in the submetering marketplace and provide a true venue for submetering customers to file their grievences," PUCO Chairman Asim Haque said.
PUCO is seeking comments on how much a submetering company has to charge to be considered a public utility.
It's been a year since the PUCO opened an investigation into the practice of submetering following a slew of complaints by consumer.
ABC 6 On Your Side exposed the problem in an investigation where the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, lawmakers and residents were calling for the PUCO to act.
"It’s not clear yet if the approach announced will solve the problem for consumers," Ohio Counsumers' Council spokesperson Dan Doron said. "We will continue our efforts for consumer protection at the PUCO and Ohio Legislature.”
AEP in Columbus has been a strong advocate for submetering regulation concerned the companies are using deceptive practices that confuse customers.
Nationwide Energy Partners, a submetering company in central Ohio, has argued that the PUCO doesn't have the jurisdiction to regulate these kinds of companies.
Nationwide Energy Partners released the following statement: “We support efforts to protect consumers from being charged unreasonably high rates and for the last three years have advocated that the Ohio legislature put consumer protections in place, while respecting property owners’ rights to offer the benefits of submetering services to their residents.”
Chairman Haque said the enhanced test applied to complaints and used to determine if a submetering company is acting as a utility is the best path forward.