Texas Consumer Groups Ask PUC To Ban Variable & Index Rate Plans For Residential Customers, Move Current Variable Customers To Fixed Rate
Seek Ban On Termination Fees & Switch Holds
Seek To Make POLR Rate A Fixed Rate
March 2, 2021 Email This Story Copyright 2010-21 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
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Texas Legal Services Center (TLSC) and AARP Texas filed a request for emergency action at the Texas PUC seeking the following relief:
1. "Prohibit REPs from selling electricity under an indexed or variable price plan. All offers
to prospective residential customers should be immediately suspended and all residential
customers currently on such plans should be moved to the lowest priced fixed rate plan
offered by the REP. "
2. "Extend the prohibition on variable and indexed pricing to the POLR. Require REPs
serving as the Voluntary POLR to charge the mass transition customers on a month-to-month
basis at the price of the fixed-rate plan that a majority of the REP's customers
already take. Open a docket to reform the POLR rate. "
3. "Prohibit REPs from charging contract termination fees to residential customers who
switch REPs. "
4. "Prohibit REPs from placing switch-holds on the customers who enter into deferred
payment plans during or as a result of the February 2021 Winter Weather Event. "
5. "Protect customers from debt collectors. When a REP defaults in the ERCOT market due
to the February 2021 Winter Weather Event and the cost of its debt is uplifted to ERCOT,
prohibit the REP from selling its bad debt accounts to collection agencies and filing
adverse credit reports on residential customers. "
The groups said that customers were encouraged to change plans to avoid the impact of higher prices from the weather event, "but are being stymied by the
Commission's switch-hold rule or further shackled by high contract termination fees."
The groups said that, "The Commission has authority to order these needed protections. See the February 12, 2021
Proclamation of the Governor filed as item Number 2 in Docket 51812. The Public Utility
Regulatory Act (PURA) provides specific protections for residential customers. Section 39.106
mandates that the Commission designate a Provider of Last Resort to offer a standard service
package 'at a fixed, nondiscountable rate approved by the commission.' Section 39.01 requires that the Commission implement retail customer protections 'to safe, reliable, and
reasonably priced electricity ... '"
The groups said that, "PURA Chapter 17 provides additional requirements for the Commission to implement
customer protections. Again, the Commission is charged to provide POLR service as a 'standard
service package.' POLR pricing that is variable in price or that is only available at rates that far
exceed market prices fail to meet that mandate. Similarly, Chapter 17 in other contexts
acknowledges the potential impact of adverse credit reports on the ability of consumers to obtain
power at affordable prices. Thus, if REP's sell their bad debt that resulted from the February
2021 Winter Weather Event customers will be likely be unable to secure low-interest loans for
home repairs, and other essential services. Similarly, Chapter 17.004(a)(6) and Section
39.101(a)(2) both mandate that the Commission ensure that customers be protected of their
'privacy of customer consumption and credit information.' If a REP were to transfer bad debt
incurred during the weather emergency to a debt collector or credit reporting agency then on its
face the affected customers' information would no longer be protected. Each of the five
consumer recommendations may be implemented now by the Commission through rule waivers
and through Commission initiated emergency rules."