Do electricity regulators really regulate?

Watchdog Nation had a theory: Some electricity companies, despite Photo courtesy of centralillinoisproud.comhorrendous customer service, are getting away with it. But is the theory true?

Based on the hundreds of letters we receive each year at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram from people complaining about their electricity bills, we wondered what happened to the thousands of complaints about electricity companies that go to the Public Utility Commission of Texas each year.

Do the companies get penalized?

As The Watchdog columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, I conducted a study. Using the open-records law, we requested the total complaints from customers of three companies that had severe difficulties in the past two years – Amigo Energy, TXU Energy and Direct Energy. We studied the number of complaints, the number that were investigated and what action was taken against any offenders.

The findings are described in detail in Sunday’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram (7/12/09) here. And you can have the reprint of our Guide to Shopping for Electric Rates – requested already by thousands of people.

In summary, the best way to counter an electric company (or any company for that matter) that harms you is to complain, complain and complain. By forcing up complaint numbers, the trend lines show a problem, thereby making the regulators more likely to take strong action.

By the way, colleague Jack Z. Smith tells a much-needed story about how the elderly, especially, can shop for lower rates here.