Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin urged the Public Utilities Commission to eliminate the “billing adjustment” practice that recalculates electric bills to cover any differences between the variable rate and the fixed-rate on Tuesday.
Kilmartin, who was joined by Lieutenant Governor Daniel McKee, said the practice leaves many customers with unexpected charges on their bills over the winter months. The National Grid Energy Procurement case is currently before the utilities commission, and the two government leaders said they've intervened to ask the commission to stop the practice. As electricity rates rose this year many small businesses and individuals switched from National Grid to other electricity suppliers only to be faced higher costs due to billing adjustments.
Several consumers contacted Kilmartin's and McKee's office as well as the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers complaining about the practice. Sandberg Machine, owned by Leah Sandberg in Burriville, Rhode Island, said she was charged $1,845 by National Grid after switching to another supplier offering lower rates.
Kilmartin said he anticipates more electricity competition will come to Rhode Island as the cost of energy continues to rise, however, the state needs to ensure that consumers aren't hit with any hidden fees when they switch.
"Consumers have been left in the dark, so to speak, about the potential costs of switching from National Grid to another electricity supplier,” Kilmartin said. “While the billing adjustment may be legal, the practice is a shock to consumers looking to benefit from a competitive electric marketplace.”
McKee said he planned to submit testimony on the billing adjustment by Friday's deadline before the commission. He also said some neighboring states have already eliminated the practice.
"Rhode Island has lagged behind other states in fostering a competitive retail market for electricity,” McKee said. “Part of the reason is the billing adjustment they face when they leave National Grid for another supplier. The adjustment is unfair and deceptive. We can and must do better for small businesses and residential ratepayers.”