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Bill Capping Retail Supplier Rates For Low-Income Customers Passes Massachusetts Senate

June 19,2018

The Massachusetts Senate passed S2545, which largely relates to clean energy, but was amended to include new customers protections for retail electric customers, including a cap on retail supplier rates for low-income customers.

The bill awaits action in the House

Per the adopted amendment, each retail electric supplier shall, "guarantee that each low-income customer shall pay a rate that is either equal to or less than the fixed basic service rate charged by the low-income customer’s electric distribution company for the same period of time."

"Low-income customer" is defined as a retail customer who is on a residential low-income discount distribution rate as set forth in subsection (4) of section 1F [of the existing statute] or who participates in a low-income energy assistance program.

Furthermore, the amended bill requires various information to be provided on utility or supplier bills, including shadow-billed default service costs. Each electric distribution company who bills on behalf of a supplier shall include the following information on the first page of each bill for each residential customer receiving electric generation service from a supplier:

(i) the electric generation service rate;

(ii) the term and expiration date of such rate;

(iii) the cancellation fee, if applicable;

(iv) notification that such rate is variable, if applicable;

(v) the fixed basic service rate for the same period;

(vi) the term and expiration date of the fixed basic service rate;

(vii) the dollar amount that would have been billed for the electric generation service component had the residential retail customer been receiving fixed basic service;

(viii) an electronic link or internet web site address to the department’s website, or a successor website and a toll-free telephone number and other information necessary to enable the residential retail customer to obtain further information or make the switch to another supplier or to basic service; and

(ix) if a residential retail customer is enrolled in automatic electronic bill payments and does not receive a bill through United States mail, a link to the customer's bill in electronic mail with confirmation of bill payment.

The bill provides that an electric distribution company that implements such billing information requirements may recover from electric suppliers, "all reasonable costs for such implementation."

Suppliers issuing their own bills would have to provide similar information on their bills

The bill would also require new affirmative written consent for renewals that have a higher rate than the existing contract.

The bill provides that:

(b) No supplier or entity acting on the supplier’s behalf shall:

     (1) extend an electricity supply agreement with a residential retail customer beyond the agreement’s stated term without receiving the customer’s affirmative written consent to do so at least 2 months prior to the end of the electricity supply agreement’s stated term unless the rate provided for the extended term is equal to or less than the rate applied to the stated terms; or

     (2) charge a cancellation fee of greater than $50 to a residential retail customer.

The bill would also require that suppliers not less than quarterly, provide to the DPU: (i) a list detailing each rate the supplier charged to residential retail customers; and (ii) the number of residential retail customers charged each rate included in such list by rate class: provided, however, that the department shall publish the list on the department’s website, or a successor website

The provisions required under the amendment would not apply to municipal aggregations or other buying cooperatives or municipal purchasing groups authorized under statute (specifically the provisions would not apply to a supplier in the course of providing generation services pursuant to sections 134, 136 and 137 of Chapter 164)

Link to bill

Link to amendment (see #8)

Massachusetts   Consumer Protections  

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