Who’s Watching Out for the Little Guys?

Rant warning:

Listening to Ed Wallace this morning, I realize what I thought was an isolated event seems to be a mounting phenomenon across America. Big business, from insurance to utilities, seems bent on taking their customers to the cleaners. While there seems to be a surfeit of advocacy groups to protect the Big Business clientele, customer advocacy groups from individual consumers seems to be few and far between.

I know these problems have been around for a long time, but until recently there were laws aimed at protecting the individual customer. Those laws are ineffective now due to the deep pockets of the big business cartels.

Take electric providers, for instance. In our section of Texas, we’ve been limited to one provider for decades thanks to interference by our state legislators and the bills pushed through our state congress. So when that law finally expired, we all breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, we’d get to choose a provider and get reasonable electric rates at last.

Unfortunately, because the one company put up the lines, they now “own” those lines and can charge whatever rates they choose. So while a customer may pay less than $100 for electric usage, the delivery fees over those wires are 9 times the rate. In the past, Sharyland was notorious for charging unrealistic rates and customers had no choice. I remember one summer calling because my 80-year-old mother (who was in the hospital for a month) had a $100 electric bill. Twelve dollars for energy usage for the month she was in the hospital and $90 for “other fees.” When I called to complain, the Sharyland representative told me, “there are government programs to help your mom pay her bills.” Really? What about moral and ethic issues? I expected that kind of billing from the third world country I lived in for 10 years, but not here in America.

Today, Sharyland customers in rural Texas are paying exorbitant “fees” for delivery charges. The prices jumped from $300 to $500 per customer and the PUC has decided this is okay and there’s nothing the customer can do.

Specific example? Our little rural church has been reclassified as “light commercial,” meaning Sharyland can now charge $900 a month for wire delivery fees. We use the church two days a week, and our energy usage is minimal. Instead of charging for energy usage, Sharyland says they’re charging for “peak” usage. Meaning one day a week, for five minutes when both heaters cut on, our church hits “peak” and gets charged $1000 a month, even though the actual energy usage is around $100. And the PUC says there’s nothing they can do about it.

Which means we, the customers, have to keep paying through the nose because no one will take our case. No one has the money to go against Sharyland’s deep pockets, or the PUC, or the Texas representatives and senators who support the unethical practices of such companies.

I wish I could say this was just a case against “religious factions,” but that’s not the case. There are hundreds of Sharyland customers, ordinary, everyday, average customers, who are paying exorbitant prices for energy in a country where wind turbines promised to bring lower electric rates.

In a country where public opinion can force CEOs out of business for a single comment, where is the public opinion to force utility companies to think of customers rather than their stockholders and corporate big wigs?

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Posted on 2015/04/11, in The Way Things Are and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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