Assembly Panel Clears DeAngelo & Eustace Three-Bill Consumer Protection Package Requiring BPU to Create Procedures for Third Party Utilities’ Providers

(TRENTON) – A three-bill legislative package sponsored by Assemblymen Wayne DeAngelo and Tim Eustace to require the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to protect consumers by establishing standards and procedures for consumer interaction with third party electric power and gas companies was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

Earlier this year, the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee heard testimony from consumer utilities advocates and utilities partners on the need for regulation of third party providers.

“The deregulated market leveled the playing field for third party competitors and gave consumers the opportunity to shop around for the best rate,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer, Middlesex), who is chair of the committee. “However, it has also raised concerns for many regarding regulation. This legislation will begin to strengthen consumer protection, for residents who choose to go with a third party electric power or gas service as their utilities’ provider.”

“Consumers are currently navigating an unregulated third party utilities’ market,” said Eustace (D-Bergen, Passaic). “There needs to be more transparency in the process. We want consumers to continue to make their own choices with clear rules and regulations in place to guard residents who enter into these contracts with chosen suppliers.”

The first measure (A-3849) in the legislative package requires BPU to provide consumer information on third-party electric power and gas supplier pricing and services. Under the bill, the BPU will provide on its website adequate and accurate price comparison information for electric generation and gas supply services and other information, as determined by the board.

The second bill (A-3850) requires the BPU to establish procedures allowing electric power and gas supplier customers to switch energy suppliers. The bill stipulates that the BPU will establish procedures to ensure that within 30 calendar days of a customer’s request, a customer will be permitted to switch electric or gas generation service from an electric power or gas supplier to a basic generation service provider, or between electric power or gas suppliers.

“Utilities companies should remain open to consumer choices,” DeAngelo added. “It is critical for terms and conditions to be clear and easily understood by consumers.”

“This legislation aims to keep utilities’ companies honest and help New Jersey residents make informed choices when it comes to third party providers,” Eustace continued. “This is important legislation as we move forward in a deregulated utilities’ market.”

The final measure (A-3851) in the package directs the BPU to establish contract standards between customers and third-party electric power and gas suppliers.

Under the bill, a contract between a customer and the supplier is to use a 12-point font; and is to state in a 12-point font, whether the contract is for a fixed rate or a variable rate and an explanation of the difference between a fixed rate and variable rate that is easily understandable by the general public. The bill requires suppliers to provide customers a one-page information sheet summarizing the pertinent terms of the contract in English and Spanish. In addition, the legislation prohibits suppliers from providing the customer’s telephone number, e-mail address, or postal address to other suppliers if the customer’s telephone number appears on the federal or state do-not-call list.
The bill would apply to contracts formed or renewed after the bill’s effective date.

The measures were approved by the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee.