400% JUMPS: PA House hearing eyes variable electric rates

03.21.14 | Bob Price

Skyrocketing electric bills have been shocking consumers all across the region this winter, and now lawmakers are getting involved.

"Everybody knows that there is a problem," said Pa. Rep. Bob Godshall, R-Montgomery Co.

On Thursday,  the House Consumer Affairs Committee held a public hearing to address the recent rate spikes, experienced among customers who switched to variable rate electric plans.

Claudia Bahorik, of Robesonia, Berks Co., told 69 News the switch caused her monthly electric bill to double.

"I felt like we were ripped off," said Bahorik.

According to officials, the hike is the result of wholesale price events caused by the polar winter. Godshall, who serves as the committee chairman, said they have found no evidence of electric company gouging.

Still, lawmakers are dedicated to preventing these hikes. Godshall is sponsoring a bill that would place a cap on variable rates and make it easier for customers to switch companies without transfer fees.

"There's a number of things we're looking at," said Godshall, who said electric companies are cooperating in response to the consumer complaints.

Many energy executives spoke before the committee to share their solutions.

"We acknowledge the severe impact this has had on Pennsylvanian's budgets," said Ritchie Hudson, Pennsylvania chairman of the Retail Energy Supply Association.

Hudson said many of the association's member supply companies are already implementing changes to assist customers and enhance customer disclosure. He said some companies are offering bill credits, assisting with enrollment in budget billing and allowing customers to migrate onto fixed-price plans.

"At the end of the day, this is hitting people's pocketbooks, and we're very sympathetic to that," said Hudson.

Still, consumers who are footing the bill feel slighted.

"You just don't expect to have to pay that much more in your electric bill," said Bahorik. "It's really unfair."