More Pennsylvanians complained about their utility service in 2011 than complained in 2010. However, the majority of them had a pleasant experience working with the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to resolve their problems.
The data comes from the 2011 Utility Consumer Activities Report and Evaluation. The annual evaluation published by the PUC found 58,337 payment agreements, or PARs, were filed for residential electric, natural gas, water, and wastewater services, a seven percent increase from 2010. Denise McCracken, spokesperson for the PUC, said a PAR request is filed when customers cannot pay their utility bills.
“We’re in a very tough economy right now. People who normally would be able to pay their bills are starting to feel the pain of the economy. They’re not able to make those payments in a timely fashion,” McCracken said.
The increased numbers do not represent the total number of PARs and complaints lodged with utilities. It only tracks the number of customers who filed them through the PUC.
Approximately 85 percent of customers in dispute said they would go through the PUC again if they were to have another problem with a utility that could not be resolved by the company and about 82 percent rated the service they received from the PUC as either “good” or “excellent”.
McCracken said it suggested that customers first contact their utility companies before going to the PUC. “That’s the company that they’re having the billing dispute, or the issue with, directly. We encourage them to talk with them, see if they can work out the issue, and then come to us if they haven’t been able to resolve it,” McCracken said.
The majority of residential complaints involving the electric and natural gas industries were the result of billing and personnel problems. In the telephone industry, unsatisfactory service and billing disputes were the primary reasons for filing complaints.