Regulators: Utilities can’t charge customers for losses from pandemic

The gas and electric company can’t raise your rates to make up for their losses from the pandemic:

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has unanimously rejected 10 utilities’ request for a rate hike to offset their losses during Indiana’s lockdown. The commission says unless utilities are literally in danger of shutting down, it’s not customers’ job to protect their bottom line.

The Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor, Indiana’s official watchdog to represent consumers’ interests before the commission, says utilities never offered any evidence of a financial emergency. Indianapolis Representative Cherrish Pryor (D) says it would have been “absurd” to bill customers for power they never used.

The commission has also extended Governor Holcomb’s ban on disconnecting customers who don’t pay their bills through August 14. The moratorium had been scheduled to expire on Tuesday.

The commission is still considering a request for a rate hike to cover the administrative costs of the moratorium. It’s advising utilities to keep careful records of those costs, and work with customers on payment plans before the new deadline. Commission member David Ober notes it’s unclear when the economy will shake off the effects of the pandemic, and says the commission may need to extend the disconnect ban again.

O-U-C-C spokesman Anthony Swinger says the office isn’t taking a position yet on whether that rate increase should be approved. He notes the utilities will have the burden of proof.

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