Explore the possibilities of part-time work! Register today for AARP's online career expo Jan. 24.
AARP Texas, June 2, 2010
AARP called “anticompetitive” and “very dangerous” a rule under consideration by the Public Utility Commission (PUC) that would prevent electric customers from switching to a new provider until the existing company “releases” the customer.
“There is no more fundamental right under Texas’ deregulated market than the right to switch providers,” said Bob Jackson, AARP Texas state director. “This proposed rule thwarts competition and essentially creates a debtor prison on behalf of electric companies, possibly with very dangerous consequences.”
According to the PUC, approximately 100,000 households have their electric service disconnected each month. Some of these are households with older people, sick people or children under the age of four. The Center for Disease Control cites these categories among those with the highest risk of heat related illness and death during hot weather.
Currently, PUC rules allow disconnected households to switch to a new provider to get their electricity service restored fairly quickly, while still under an obligation to pay their debt to the first company. Under the “switch-block” policy proposed by the PUC, households that have entered into a payment plan and get disconnected can be held captive by their retail electric provider until the entire outstanding amount is paid in full. If the PUC adopts a switch-block policy, electric customers whose electricity is cut for a day or two under the current policy will likely be without electricity for a significantly longer period.
“The proposed policy is both absurd and an overreach on the part of a Texas government agency,” Jackson said. ”We believe that the Commission lacks the authority to establish a rule that blocks a customer from choosing a new provider.”
Jackson added that given Texas’ weather, a longer disconnection period could be dangerous. “Each additional day a switch-hold keeps a customer disconnected puts vulnerable Texans at risk of injury or even death.”
A second rule being considered by the PUC came under AARP attack as another overreach of PUC authority, putting the agency square in between the relationship between doctors and their patients.
This proposed rule includes a section stating that a person diagnosed by a physician as being dependent upon an electric powered medical device to sustain life—such as a ventilator or heart pump—would not be eligible for special disconnection protections if such device has a battery back-up available in the market.
“This is the worst possible instance of a regulator and an electric company interfering in the relationship between doctor and patient,” Jackson said. “It is phenomenal that the PUC thinks it has the authority to ‘pull the plug’ or to play doctor in matters of life and death.”
“While AARP has made its fundamental concerns with the deregulated Texas electric market quite clear in the past, the PUC is making it even harder to judge its results by regularly interfering in the market to the detriment of consumers,” Jackson concluded.
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
Members save $65-$200 on round-trip tickets purchased online.
Members save 10% at Park Ride Fly USA's off-airport parking locations nationwide.
Members save 15% on in-store purchases of frozen yogurt, treats and apparel.
AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.
Explore all that AARP has to offer.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at