Utility Consumers: Where is my refund?
When something goes wrong with a product or service that you bought, you might want a refund. But did you know that your utilities don’t have to give you a refund when the Ohio Supreme Court finds that charges you paid to a utility were improperly allowed by the PUCO? That’s right, an obscure 1950’s Court precedent combined with a lack of action by the PUCO is allowing utilities to keep your payments for improper charges.
The Ohio Supreme Court has said that utilities do not have to refund improper charges to consumers unless the PUCO makes the utility’s charges refundable or the Ohio legislature changes the law. And guess what, utilities lobby against making charges refundable or changing the law.
You lose every which way. How much have you lost, you ask? Just since 2009, Ohio electric consumers have been denied $1.5 billion in refunds that utilities were allowed to keep even though the Supreme Court found the utility charges to be improper.
Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer’s 2014 Opinion on Refunds
Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer highlighted the injustice of denying utility refunds to consumers in a “dissent’ from the decision of a majority of the Court:
“It is unconscionable that a public utility should be able to retain $368 million that it collected from customers based on assumptions that are unjustified. The problem stems from this court’s 1957 decision. Clearly the time has come to overturn this case.
[I]t boggles the mind that this court would ever countenance such a proposition: that a public utility should be allowed to fatten itself on the backs of Ohio residents by collecting unjustified charges.
Allowing AEP to retain the $368 million that it collected based on charges that were not justified is unconscionable. Doing so because of a 50-year-old case that is not supported by the statute on which it is based is ridiculous. The ratepayers of Ohio deserve better.”
Testimony on Refunds
OCC has advocated on behalf of consumers at the Ohio General Assembly, the PUCO, and the Supreme Court in order to help secure refunds.
Testimony on House Bill 260
Resolution to Enable Refunds by the Consumers’ Counsel Governing Board
“In Support of Legislation for Regulatory Reform to Protect Consumers by Enabling Refunds of Improper Utility Charges”
“PUCO leader must lead” – Toledo Blade Editorial Board Editorial Board
“Fix PUCO so it serves all Ohioans, not just the state’s utilities” – Cleveland Plain Dealer Editorial Board
"Consumer protection? New DeWine regulatory chief says most overcharges can’t be refunded" – Ohio Capital Journal
“PUCO reverses disputed FirstEnergy charge; but customers won’t really get a refund.”– Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Keep the change: Ohio utilities don’t have to refund improper charges” - Columbus Dispatch
“New Ohio motto: With the PUCO, all things are possible - for utilities: Thomas Suddes”- Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Ohio Supreme Court rescinds FirstEnergy customer ‘rider’ that brought utility up to $204 million annually”