© 2024 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Utility companies fight calls for Connecticut regulators to probe billing practices during COVID

electric power lines
Chris Hunkeler

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is calling for an investigation into claims energy regulators wrongly sued customers for unpaid bills at the height of the pandemic. Utility companies are denying accusations.

Records provided by the state Office of Consumer Counsel show Eversource and Avangrid obtained more than 300 court judgments and nearly 100 wage garnishments against customers for unpaid bills.

Gage Frank, spokesperson at Avangrid, said the judgments made by the OCC are from pre-pandemic claims that were stalled during the shut down. The cases continued once the courts reopened. He said no new claims were filed during COVID.

“We appreciate what our regulatory authorities are doing and looking into things and making sure we are doing our jobs but we are. No new judgment claims were started during the pandemic and it’s important that we stress that message,” Frank said.

Blumenthal wrote in a letter it is inexcusable for utility companies to aggressively pursue residents who were already having trouble meeting their financial obligations.

“Senator Blumenthal does not have the facts straight,” said Mitch Gross, spokesperson at Eversource. “We voluntarily stopped all collection activities — including efforts to seek new judgments for historically owed balances. Judgments and wage garnishments are always a last resort when we’re working with customers on overdue balances.”

The utility companies said they tried to work with their most vulnerable customers to set up payment plans and provide energy assistance.

“We are still deeply committed to our customers, especially those facing financial hardships and we’ll do whatever we can to work things out with them,” Frank said.

Blumenthal’s letter to the Connecticut Public Utility Regulatory Authority came two weeks after the OCC petitioned PURA for an investigation.

Clare is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.