Houston Mayor Turner Says SB 1976 Has No Impact On Customer Protection, "On Its Face"
Addressing disagreements concerning the impact that Texas SB 1976, which ostensibly addresses a listing of eligible low-income customers, has on various electric customer protections that had been tied to LITE-UP Texas eligibility, Houston Mayor and former State Rep. Sylvester Turner wrote the Texas PUC that the bill, "on its face", does not impact existing consumer protections.
"To the PUC's credit, LITE-UP Texas customers are given special consideration. The PUC's rules prohibit a retail electric provider (REP) from charging low-income customers a 5% late fee on bills, allow security deposits to be paid over two months, ease eligibility requirements for a deferred payment plan at times of the year when bills are high, and when a REP defaults the PUC gives priority to refunding the security deposits of low income customers," Turner wrote
"On top of the fact that poor families in Houston have to pay higher prices for electricity this summer, there is more. It has come to my attention that SB 1976, a bill intended to benefit the poor, may, in practice, do the exact opposite," Turner wrote
"SB 1976 is intended to continue the automatic enrollment process for LITE-UP eligible customers. Automatic enrollment is important to allow REPs to cost effectively identify customers who fall under the special LITE-UP Texas customer protection rules. From my staff I have learned that there is some disagreement as to the applicability of the current rules in regard to SB 1976. One interpretation would result in additional costs for low income consumers," Turner wrote
"On its face, SB 1976 has no impact on customer protection. Furthermore, Chapters 17.004 and 39.101 of the Public Utility Regulatory Act call for no weakening of customer protection standards and provide broad authority for the PUC to provide essential customer protection," Turner wrote