NC WARN, others urge NC Utilities Commission to revise unfair rules
North Carolina regulators should follow the lead of other states in prohibiting electric utilities from requiring up-front deposits from new customers. The current policy discriminates against renters and low-income customers, who can be forced to pay deposits equaling two months’ power bills even if they’ve had a perfect payment record with previous electric companies.
NC WARN said so in a new filing with the NC Utilities Commission in a docket opened following a complaint by a new Duke Energy Progress customer. Before receiving electric service, the customer had to pay a large deposit based on a general credit check – even though he had a good payment history with his previous utilities.
The customer had asked Duke for a monthly payment option because he didn’t have the amount of the deposit on hand, but the utility denied his request.
Later, utilities commissioners dismissed a complaint the customer filed with them, but they then opened a docket to consider changing the rules for deposits and disconnection of electricity service.
Why are customers without means expected to come up with a deposit equal to twice their monthly bill – plus a hefty reconnection charge in some cases – all at once?
And why should they have to, when Duke Energy is sitting on massive cash reserves and is granted a monopoly market area intended as a service to the people of North Carolina?
North Carolina’s rules leave too much discretion to the utility and too much hardship on the customer.
Large deposits should be prohibited, or at the very least, the Commission should base the deposit on previous payment of electric bills – the best indicator of one’s ability to afford electricity service.