Public Utility Commission of Texas Protects Consumers
The Texas Public Utility Commission was created in 1975 to regulate the electric utilities within the state. It was also given the responsibilities of investigating and resolving customer complaints and implementing any legislation that pertains to the energy industry. Though its specific role has evolved over the years, the Public Utility Commission of Texas has always helped protect consumer energy rights.
Understand the Texas Public Utility Commission and its role in deregulation
When the Texas legislature decided to restructure the electricity market more than a decade ago, the Texas Public Utility Commission, or PUC of Texas, had to restructure as well. Before deregulation, the PUC of Texas regulated the rates charged by utilities. At the time, only utilities were able to sell and deliver electricity to Texas consumers. Although it was essentially a monopoly, the PUC Texas safeguarded residents from excessive charges or fines.
When the deregulation law passed, the Texas Public Utility Commission transitioned to an oversight position. Since utilities were no longer in charge of providing consumers with electricity supply, there was no need to have rates regulated by the PUC. Power was sold by retail electric suppliers instead, with the idea being that competition would keep prices in check instead of the Public Utility Commission of Texas. Now, the PUC of Texas monitors the competitive energy market and enforces rules and regulations upon it.
The PUC of Texas continues to resolve customer complaints about utilities and retail electric providers. In addition, utilities face regulations from the PUC Texas on the rates they charge for transmission and distribution of electricity.
Where does the PUC of Texas operate?
The Public Utility Commission of Texas doesn't have the right to regulate every utility in the state. The PUC Texas only has authority over investor-owned utilities, which operate in deregulated markets. While this puts most of the state under the jurisdiction of the PUC, electric utilities owned by municipalities or cooperatives are exempt from its regulations. These utilities are governed by the city council or local board, which set the electricity rates for the area.
Filing a complaint with the PUC Texas
As part of its job as a utility regulator, the Public Utility Commission of Texas is responsible for resolving customer complaints. If you feel you have been wronged by your provider or utility on your electric bills, filing a formal complaint with the Public Utility Commission of Texas should be a last resort. The first step in resolving any issue is to contact your retail electricity provider, not the PUC. Power providers should be given the opportunity to investigate your complaint and resolve any issues without getting the Texas Public Utility Commission involved.
If you are unable to resolve your issue with your provider privately, you can file an informal complaint with the PUC. Electric providers that are the subject of informal complaints will be part of a PUC Texas investigation. The utilities commission will begin by reviewing your complaint and sending it over to the retail electric provider in question. Your provider will be given 21 days to look into the complaint sent by the PUC. Electric companies must respond to the complaint within the three-week time frame. After the provider has responded to your complaint, a PUC power company investigator will determine if the provider was in the wrong. Once the decision has been made, the Texas Public Utility Commission will send a letter with its findings to you and your retail provider.
If you are unsatisfied with the results of your complaint, you can take the process one step further by filing a formal complaint with the PUC. Electric utilities may have a different formal complaint process. If you want to file a complaint about your local utility instead of your retail provider, you might have to submit your formal complaint to the city in which you live.
A formal complaint with the Public Utility Commission of Texas is very much like a court case. It's advisable to consult your attorney so you can get a better understanding of the rules and laws relevant to your complaint with the Texas Public Utility Commission. You will be assigned an attorney from the PUC of Texas. However, he or she can only help answer your questions concerning the PUC Texas rules and regulations. The PUC's attorney cannot advise or represent you in your case.
Though the evidence for your case should be submitted in written form, it's possible that you will be questioned by the PUC, power provider in question and the judge in a hearing. After the hearing, it's up to the judge to determine if the energy provider is at fault and what if any measures need to be taken to resolve the issue.