Rep. Opposes Pre-Pay Electric Service

A Houston state lawmaker says he's not happy about a proposed change in consumer protections for electricity customers who pre-pay for their service. Laurie Johnson reports.

State Representative Sylvester Turner says the Public Utility Commission wants to set-up a two-tier system that would give pre-pay customers fewer protections. The proposed rule is in response to the increasing use of Smart Meters,
which record real-time power usage. Turner says it's not fair that pre-pay customers could have to play by different
rules than other electric customers.

"There are still requirements for minimum balances. They are not supposed to have deposits, but in actuality, they do. The rates are much higher if you are a pre-pay customer. There are more penalties for early termination. There is not limit on fees for the pre-pay electric customers."  

Terry Hadley with the PUC says the proposed rule changes are a work in progress and nowhere near reality yet.

"We want to work through these issues. That's why the rule-making process has a comment period that is still being reviewed. The deadline for the final comments is Tuesday the 13th. At that time staff will put out another
proposal to go before the commissioners and can be subject to more comment."

Sylvester Turner says at this point, he doesn't recommend pre-pay electric service, no matter what kind of economic
hardships are involved. He says until those types of customers have equal consumer protections, it's not a good idea.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...