Reselling of utility services (submetering) and proposed legislation
The residents of many apartments, manufactured homes and other housing communities do not receive a bill from their local utility. Instead, their utility service might be submetered, included in the rent, or pro-rated among others in the community. A submeter allows an apartment owner or other company to purchase utility service (electric and water) and then resell that service to tenants by utilizing the submeter to record usage.
In October 2013, an investigation by the Columbus Dispatch discovered that the practice of reselling public utility services has inflated some residential utility bills by as much as 40 percent, compared to customers who are billed directly by a public utility.
Several bills related to the reselling of utility services have been introduced in the Ohio General Assembly. The Office of the Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) has been working with legislators and other stakeholders to address the concerns associated with the practice of reselling. In testimony before the Ohio House Finance and Appropriations Committee in April 2014, the Consumers’ Counsel provided recommendations to protect consumers from the high costs of resold public utility services.
In March 2019, Senator Tina Maharath (D - District 3) introduced new legislation on submetering, Senate Bill 86. This bill would have provided consumers with some regulatory protections from the reselling of utility services. However, the bill never made it out of committee.
In May 2023, Senator Andrew O. Brenner (R - District 19) introduced Senate Bill 123. This bill would exempt from regulation as a public utility certain persons or entities providing utility related services after the metered point of delivery.
In October 2023, the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel asked the PUCO to reconsider its recent decision where it ruled that it has no power over Nationwide Energy Partners’ (NEP) resale of electric service to apartment residents. The OCC also asked the PUCO to reverse its ruling denying OCC a voice in the case.
Here are some excerpts from the filing:
“Residential consumers living in the NEP submetered apartments should have the same consumer protections under Ohio law and the PUCO’s rules as residential consumers who receive electric utility service directly from the PUCO-regulated utility, AEP Ohio.” (page 3)
“When residential utility consumers receive electric utility service directly from a PUCO-regulated utility like AEP Ohio, they receive many consumer protections under Ohio law and the PUCO’s rules. These consumer protections include, but are not limited to:
- The PUCO’s regulation of rates and service terms, including periodic audits by the PUCO;
- Being able to use the PUCO’s complaint procedures and call center to seek assistance with service and billing disputes;
- Clear and informative billing information that has been reviewed by stakeholders and approved by the PUCO;
- The ability to take advantage of the PUCO’s percentage of income payment plan program (‘PIPP’); and
- The ability to ‘shop’ for electric supply from marketers if they choose.
The PUCO’s determination that is has no jurisdiction over NEP’s submetering service means that residential consumers will lose these rights regarding their essential electric utility service. The PUCO should grant rehearing to fix this unreasonable and unjust result.” (pages 3-4)
“The PUCO erred by unlawfully denying residential consumers a voice in this proceeding, through their state residential utility advocate (OCC) in violation of R.C. 4903.221, O.A.C. 4901-1-11, and Ohio Supreme Court precedent. The PUCO abused its discretion by refusing to let the Consumers’ Counsel intervene.” (page 7)
- PUCO docket in the case: https://dis.puc.state.oh.us/CaseRecord.aspx?CaseNo=21-990&x=0&y=0
- OCC Application for Rehearing: https://dis.puc.state.oh.us/DocumentRecord.aspx?DocID=02315c5a-d0e2-46d0-b083-fff55c30c201
- OCC’s Motion for Leave to File Application: https://dis.puc.state.oh.us/DocumentRecord.aspx?DocID=6113885a-7880-4295-8a8d-460145a83898
The OCC continues to oppose overcharging for submetering services and advocate for consumer protections in submetering services.
Currently, the OCC is directing consumers with complaints about a utility service that is resold by a submetering company to the Ohio Attorney General at http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Individuals-and-Families/Consumers/File-A-Complaint.aspx or at 1-800-282-0515 (toll free in Ohio) or (614) 466-4986 (local).
For more information about utilities and renting, visit:
OCC's Utility Guide to Renting
For more information about submetering, visit:
Utility Service for Tenants (Submetering)