Sunday, July 27, 2008

An Open Letter to Corporation Commission Candidates

Within the next several days, I intend to mail the following to every current candidate for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission:


Dear Candidate:

As you may or may not know, several years ago, the Oklahoma Legislature allowed several Oklahoma Rural Electric Coops to "opt out" of regulation by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Many of the Oklahoma consumers served by these "opt out" REC's live in rural areas of the state with high poverty levels. These consumers, who could normally use the office of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to resolve complaints against an REC without charge, unfortunately have no such venue other than the courts. Practically speaking, if the are having a hard time paying their light bill they certainly can't afford a lawyer. Consequently, these consumers are often left without a remedy and must accept whatever decision the REC makes concerning their account and pay whatever the REC demands to restore service. Since the regulation of public utilities is one of the primary functions of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission:

(a) What do you think about this "opt out" privilege?
(b) Do you think that the Oklahoma consumers served by these "opt out" REC's are receiving their constitutionally guaranteed right to equal protection under the law?
(c) What would you do, if anything, about this situation if you were elected to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission?
(d) Would you support general legislation which requires all otherwise unregulated Oklahoma REC's to:
(1) Limit the total amount required to restore service to a consumer whose service has been terminated including late fees, service charges, disconnect and reconnect fees and deposits to no more than five times the amount past due?
(2) Limit the deposit required by the REC for so-called poor credit risk consumers to no more than two times the average monthly billing for that account?
(3) Require that when a billing dispute occurs, service shall be restored upon payment of the amount past due alone, exclusive of other fees, service charges and deposits until the billing dispute is resolved?
(4) Codify the otherwise legally recognized common law principles that an invoice or bill from an REC represents a legally binding contract upon the parties and any ambiguities shall be interpreted in favor of the non-drafting party?
(5) Require that if an e-billing system is used by the REC that all vital information concerning that account including collection notices, cut off notices, etc. be available through that system?
(6) Require REC's to: (a) accept bank to bank electronic payments from a consumer and (b) do so without charging a special fee?
(7) Require REC's to appoint an internal ombudsman who will give the consumer an opportunity to resolve billing disputes, work out payment plans, etc. before service can be terminated?

I look forward to your response.


Bill Kumpe
Attorney at Law
Member, Cookson Hills Electric Cooperative


Post a Comment

<< Home