Report Touts Ohio Electricity Consumer Protections

Although there remains a dearth of retail electricity choice in Ohio, residents can take some comfort in knowing that they are protected by a wide range of consumer standards, and that the state will not ignore attempts to abuse Ohio's evolving energy marketplace, according to a new report issued last Tuesday by the Ohio Consumers' Counsel.

The report, "The View From 90 Days: Despite Few Choices for Electric Consumers, Education Efforts Must Proceed," was prepared by Robert S. Tongren of Ohio Consumers' Counsel.

Tongren highlights several developments that have occurred in Ohio since electric choice was first introduced. For starters, the report notes that during the first three months, the state has seen plenty of certified electricity suppliers, but few that have actively marketed to residential consumers.

The report further states that marketing activity has started to expand into other parts of the state. While most of the marketing activity has been concentrated in the service territories of the three FirstEnergy companies, the report continues, the early part of February saw the first supplier, The New Power Co., begin marketing to customers of Cinergy and AEP. But to date, no suppliers have yet begun marketing to Dayton Power & Light customers.

"The simple and unavoidable fact is that competition has been slow to develop, choices have been slow to materialize and savings have been slow to accumulate." But the report doesn't necessarily see the slow pace of residential electricity choice in Ohio as being an entirely bad thing.

"While it's true that Ohio consumers have not had many choices in the first three months of electric restructuring, it's equally true that they aren't being subjected to the kind of risks that Californians are facing," the report continues."From our perspective at the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, that's a fair and reasonable trade-off."

The Consumers' Counsel included "warnings" to all electric generators, marketers, brokers and aggregators that intend to do business in the state that it will not tolerate market abuses such as those seen in California. The agency said it would react "swiftly and forcefully" to ensure the continued integrity of Ohio's competitive electric market.

Also, the Consumers' Counsel said that while it welcomes suppliers to serve Ohio's residential customers, "the agency will not tolerate sales practices that attempt to take advantage of the fears or lack of knowledge of those customers."

Meanwhile, on a separate front related to competition among retail power suppliers, last Tuesday was the deadline for interested parties to submit their comments to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as part of that agency's examination of retail power deregulation plans (see NGI, March 5).

For its part, the Electric Power Supply Association (EPSA) said that true competition among retail power suppliers continues to be the best way to provide enhanced services and efficiencies to consumers. In a written statement, the EPSA said that its comments to the FTC addressed several fundamentals that states must tackle in order to structure retail competition in a successful manner. These issues include, among others, switching requirements, customer aggregation, market structure and artificial price caps.

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