Complaint investigations result in $56,447 in customer credits
LACEY, Wash. - In 2021, consumer protection staff at the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission intervened in nearly 2,500 potential customer energy utility disconnections and closed hundreds of customer complaints across six industries.
Over the last two years, state regulators established protections for investor-owned electric and natural gas utility customers impacted by the pandemic and required energy utilities to notify the UTC before disconnecting any customers after the disconnection moratorium expired in October 2021. As a result, UTC consumer protection staff opened 2,484 inquiries between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021, reaching out to each customer scheduled for disconnection to make sure customers understood their rights and bill assistance options, and ensuring that companies were following notification and assistance guidelines.
Additionally, UTC staff closed 973 total customer complaints across six industries in 2021, resulting in the return of $56,447 in credits and refunds to customers.
The commission is partnering with federal and state agencies to support National Consumer Protection Week, March 6-12. The annual campaign encourages consumers to know and understand their rights and responsibilities in order to make better-informed decisions.
In its annual analysis of consumer complaints, the commission found that landline telecommunications companies once again topped the list of closed complaints, making up 46% of the 973 consumer complaints staff closed in 2021. When combined, electric and natural gas utilities made up 26% of the closed complaints, and 24% were against solid waste companies. The remainder of closed consumer complaints were against moving and water companies.
The most common complaints involved quality of service, customer service, and disputed bills.
The UTC’s Consumer Protection Help Line received 5,032 phone calls, and staff also responded to over 2,600 letters, web complaints and chats, and emails from the public. In addition to resolving complaints, staff helped consumers find utility assistance, provided information on consumer rights, and assisted consumers in locating permitted residential moving and passenger transportation companies.
Consumers can file a complaint against a regulated company by calling the Consumer Protection Help Line at 1-888-333-WUTC (9882), emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or visiting www.utc.wa.gov/fileacomplaint.
The UTC regulates the rates and services of the state’s investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities, landline telephone companies, solid waste haulers, private water systems, and residential movers among other industries. The agency also manages the state’s pipeline, railroad, and intrastate bus and trucking safety programs.