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Author DCPC Staff    Published; 8/28/2023   Office of the People’s Counsel 

A Note from Your

People’s Counsel

Sandra Mattavous-Frye

                                                                 High Complaint Numbers Tell a Big Story

 

A core responsibility of the Office of the People’s Counsel is to assist DC consumers who have complaints or concerns about their utilities or need help to keep their services running. Through summer breaks, fall days, winter times, thick and thin, OPC is always “on the case.” In fact, since fiscal year 2023 began in October, through August 11, our Consumer and Water Services Divisions have handled an unprecedented 3,551 consumer complaints and concerns—and there are still six weeks remaining in FY 23. That historically high number of cases compares to 3,333 during the entire FY 22.

Consumers have reached out to OPC primarily because their electric, gas, water, or telephone utilities have been disconnected, are at risk of being shut off, or they need bill payment assistance. Behind these numbers are many families and individuals in dire straits. Therefore, I am grateful to the dedicated OPC staff who are sensitive to consumer needs, passionate about their work, and persistent in getting complaints resolved.

As I highlight OPC’s crucial work, I remind consumers who are having a problem with their utility services to act sooner than later. Don’t wait to apply for financial assistance. With a new fiscal year beginning October 1, consumers currently receiving aid will need to reapply. Here’s the link.

If you are behind on your utility bills, or have a complaint against a utility company, don’t hesitate to contact the Office of the People’s Counsel at (202) 727-3071. We stand ready to advocate, educate, and protect!

Connecting Consumers with the Latest on Washington Gas & Pepco Plans to Raise Your Rates

 

Consumer advocates like OPC must grapple with the intricate dance of balancing our efforts to ensure fair rates for consumers while being mindful that utilities must remain financially viable. OPC is currently litigating two important rate cases in which Washington Gas and Pepco seek to increase customer rates. The stakes are high, with potentially far-reaching consequences for consumers, businesses, and the broader economic landscape of the District of Columbia. The Public Service Commission recently outlined the path forward for the two cases.

The Washington Gas case is in the final stages. The utility, OPC and other parties are required to submit initial briefs by September 1. This submission will serve as a foundation for subsequent oral arguments scheduled for September 13, allowing for an exchange of perspectives on how natural gas rates should be set. The culmination of this process will be the filing of final briefs by October 11. The Commission will examine the entire record to render a decision, most likely in January 2024.

The Pepco rate case is a bit more complicated. The Commission has set a schedule that puts three distinct Pepco applications under evaluation simultaneously. The first application is an examination of the performance of a new ratemaking model approved three years ago on a pilot basis. The second application is a new three-year ratemaking proposal. The third application takes a more traditional route, in which rates are set for just one year.

 

Parties are required to submit testimony on October 16. A hearing has been set for January 22, 2024, and briefs are due on February 16. The Commission will issue a final decision in May 2024. OPC will file a request for reconsideration asking the Commission to establish a new schedule that will first evaluate the performance of the previous three-year rate plan and then have Pepco file either a traditional one-year rate increase or another three-year plan.

If this all sounds complicated, rest assured, OPC will navigate through all the weeds to ensure DC consumers are protected and we will aggressively argue for a fair and reasonable outcome.