AARP is fighting to make sure utility customers in every state have a strong voice, in the form of state consumer advocate offices. These offices represent the interests of utility customers before regulatory agencies and the courts. They work to:
- Protect the pocketbooks of consumers from unfair rate increases
- Make sure utility services are reliable — especially during bad weather and other emergencies
AARP has fought for years in state legislatures across the country to establish and sufficiently fund independent federal and state utility consumer advocate offices. We then fight to hold these offices accountable — to make sure they’re working for you.
Today, most states and the District of Columbia have created consumer advocate offices.
- Where the offices do not exist, AARP continues to fight for their establishment.
- Where the offices are in place, we fight to fully fund and strengthen them — to make sure the offices are working for you.
In 2013, we fought to create and strengthen consumer advocate offices in many places; Delaware and Wyoming are examples of how AARP made sure the interests of residential utility consumers come first.
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Delaware Strengthens Office of the Public Advocate
In Delaware, AARP was instrumental in crafting a major change to the activities and scope of the Office of the Public Advocate (OPA).
AARP fought for a significant change in the Public Advocate’s duties, to ensure they primarily represented residential consumers in utility cases appearing before the Public Service Commission. Previously the Public Advocate had a dual role, also representing small businesses. Additionally, AARP advocated for increased disclosure of Public Advocate actions. Because of that advocacy, the office will now prepare an annual report to the general public.
A new Public Advocate was nominated by Delaware’s governor and confirmed by the state Senate. The new Public Advocate singled out AARP’s effectiveness in the fight to establish the OPA during his nomination hearing, citing AARP’s research, which revealed that 77 percent of the Delawareans age 50 and older are concerned about the costs of their electricity going up.
See Also: AARP Blog: 4 More Wins — for You
Wyoming Utility Consumer Advocate Office Extended 10 Years
The Wyoming Office of Consumer Advocate (OCA), which represents consumers on utility issues such as requests to raise rates and approval of new construction projects, was scheduled to shut down in 2013. AARP was the driving force in establishing the OCA 10 years ago — and the driving force to save it.
The OCA was about to “sunset,” to be eliminated from state government. AARP took the lead to reauthorize the OCA and fought a long and hard — and ultimately successful — campaign for that reauthorization. The campaign focused on engaging AARP members and other utility customers to raise their voices in support of the OCA. A highlight was tele-town hall meetings with Gov. Matt Mead in which thousands of AARP members participated.
The extension signed into law this year will keep the OCA up and running for 10 more years, to 2023.
“The Wyoming Office of Consumer Advocate is often the only voice consumers have on utility matters,” said AARP Wyoming State Director Tim Summers. “Without them, it would be the utility companies and the Public Service Commission. That’s it. AARP was the leader of the coalition and organizer to make sure the OCA was reauthorized.”
AARP has approximately 95,000 members in Wyoming, many of them living on fixed incomes, and through our efforts on their behalf the OPA will continue to look after their interests and those of other residential utility customers.
Fighting for our members and all families
AARP’s state utility consumer protection activities have a common goal: We are here to fight for our members and all families — to prevent unfair utility rates, protect reliable utility services, ensure continued affordability and strengthen consumer protections. Establishing and working with effective state consumer advocate offices is one way AARP achieves this goal — for you.
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