Citizens need consumer protection

Published 9:59 am Wednesday, March 27, 2013

To the Editor:

I’m asking this paper’s readership to help the citizen’s of Franklin find a law firm and consumer protection agencies that can help the Franklin community obtain consumer protections for it citizens regarding the City of Franklin, Virginia, municipal electric power service.

According to the Municipal Electric Power Association of Virginia website, municipal electric utilities in Virginia have been in operation since the late 1800’s. The MEPAV’s is a lobbying organization that supports the 16 localities that operate electric utilities. The organization’s legislative efforts have left municipal consumers of the electric services without consumer protections. This is especially true for non-resident consumers who receive electricity from a municipality. The Virginia municipal electric systems continue to be self-regulated by their local governments providing them with the power to price gouge, to ignore the needs of the poor residents of their communities, and to ignore the needs of the elderly on fixed incomes.

Contrast this with private energy providers, the State Corporation Commission’s Division of Energy Regulation regulates electric, gas and water utility companies and responds to utility complaints. Unresolved systemic problems can be addressed by the Office of the Attorney General, Commonwealth of Virginia and the State’s legislature.

Once again, the State Corporation Commission’s Division of Energy Regulation does not regulate municipal utilities. For complaints about municipal utilities, the customer can only contact their local government.

The citizens of Franklin, Virginia have billing problems that requires an independent agency and statutory consumer protections that will allow users of the City’s electric service to file complaints, verify proper electric system operation, and control rate increases.

Thomas H. Councill Jr.