The Polar Vortex of 2014 was an extreme cold snap that led to a shortage of electric generation power and a sudden spike in prices. Hundreds of households on variable rate electric plans were hit with hefty bills.
Complaints rolled into the Public Utility Commission. After an investigation, rules were changed and action was taken.
“The commission ordered well over $20 million in refunds to consumers,” PUC press secretary Nils Hagen-Frederiksen said.
It’s a prime example of why the PUC was formed 82 years ago: to look out for consumer interests
with utilities that operate in the state.
“The electric utilities, natural gas, telecommunications, water/wastewater, and transportation companies like taxis and the Ubers and Lyfts of the world or moving companies,” said Hagen-Frederiksen.
If you have an issue with any of these utilities, you can file a complaint with the PUC. Complaints can be filed online and team members can start reviewing the complaint right away so it’s quicker for consumers. Complaints can also be filed through one of the PUC’s call centers.
“The commission gets about 60,000 complaints a year. Those are things that need to be investigated,” said Hagen-Frederiksen.
Complaints range from issues with billing, equipment or even rates. The PUC will investigate, mediate, and determine if the company is operating within the law. Some issues can be resolved in a few days. Others can take weeks.
“Eventually, it goes before the five commissioners who sit as the final judges of the facts and they vote,” said Hagen-Frederiksen.
According to its annual activities report and evaluation, most consumer complaints are about electric utilities, followed by gas and telephone. One of the biggest complaints is billing disputes.
“The PUC is there to backstop you as the consumer and make sure the utilities are playing by the rules,” said Hagen-Frederiksen.