Energy & Environment

Complaining Customers Getting More Refunds From Texas Electricity Retailers

When it comes to what you pay for electricity, it might pay….to complain.

In the past year, thousands of electricity customers across Texas have complained to state regulators. And increasingly, they're complaining about being billed too much.

So says a consumer group that nonetheless found a silver lining — silver as in money — in data it analyzed from the Public Utility Commission of Texas. Turns out, people who complained to the PUC are getting more of their money refunded: a total this past year statewide of $450,183. That’s a nearly 7 percent increase over the previous year, the group said.

The average refund to a disgruntled electricity customer is $334, according to the PUC.

"I have to sort of give kudos to the Public Utility Commission," says Jake Dyer, a policy analyst with that consumer group, the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power.

"There were more refunds and restitution and that sort of thing awarded to customers as a result of those complaints," says Dyer.

On the downside, Dyer says they found that compared to before Texas deregulated the electricity market in 2002, there were far fewer complaints. Sometimes, less than a thousand a year back then when most communities had just one electricity company.

Now, there are dozens of retailers and thousands of complaints a year, hitting an all-time high of over 17,000 complaints in 2003, falling to just under 7,000 complaints statewide in 2015 (fiscal year), the lowest number since deregulation.

Terry Hadley, spokesperson for the PUC, said that the number of complaints seems to be influenced by the price of electricity. He notes there was a spike in complaints in 2009 (15,956) which coincided with a spike in electricity prices.

"We're in a low price environment now," says Hadley.

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Dave Fehling

Dave Fehling

Director of News and Public Affairs

As Director of News and Public Affairs, Dave Fehling manages the radio news operation at Houston's NPR station. Previously, he was a reporter at the station, covering the oil & gas industry and its impact on the environment. He won top state honors for in-depth and investigative reporting as well...

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