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State Senator calls out 3rd party utility suppliers for ‘unscrupulous’ practices

HARTFORD -- A state senator said he was overcharged on his electric bill, and says there’s evidence to show that thousands more residents may have paid too much.

This is an issue Senator Len Suzio has been fighting for, for some time.

He brought the problem to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority or PURA. They’re aware of the issue which they say occurred on the part of your bill that’s supposed to show you what next month’s rate will be.

Suzio said over 5 months he was overcharged $215. “I was on the phone for 47 minutes and was shifted to 4 different people, none of whom could help me at all,” said the Republican State Senator from the 13th District.

Suzio, like many Connecticut customers, chose to shop around. Instead of taking the standard rate through Eversource and United Illuminating — he’s a customer of Spark Energy — one of 11 3rd party electric suppliers in Connecticut he said is charging 7 of 10 customers more than they should.

“The results are showing me that the people are Connecticut are getting short-changed and particularly the most vulnerable are being preyed upon by some unscrupulous suppliers,” said Suzio. Suzio said the technology 3rd party suppliers use to communicate with the utility is too slow, which can result in errors.

“While these regulations and laws were intended to benefit consumers by promoting competition, it’s obvious in their execution that there are some serious problems and shortcomings and many people in Connecticut may not be getting the deal that we all bargained for,” he continued.

Joining Suzio was state Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz. She alleged the overcharges may be intentional and warns consumers of deceptive marketing practices.

“You might get a robocall that sounds like it’s from Eversource or CL&P and it’s really from one of these suppliers. People can knock on your door and be wearing an Eversource or United Illuminating badge and it turns out they are actually from a supplier,” said Swanson Katz.

She said you can and should protect yourself. “We’re moving to an electronic world. None the less you still get an electronic version of your bill. Still want to open it up and read it. It’s got the same information on it.”

The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority has put a deadline of July 2019 to shore up its systems. But there’s still no easy recourse for an overcharged customer to get their refund.

FOX61 reached out to several 3rd party Connecticut suppliers including Spark Energy for comment.

Minutes after our story aired we received the following statement.

“Spark Energy does not comment on pending regulatory matters; however, we comply with all regulatory requirements in the state of Connecticut. We work with the PURA to take immediate corrective action when we identify any potential problems.”

Senator Suzio called PURA a “toothless tiger.”

He said it’s time for the legislature to take action and give PURA more authority to force utilities to issue refunds. By law, If you sign up with a 3rd party supplier rate and regret it, you have 72 hours to switch back to the standard rate.