Connecticut regulators launch probe of utilities over payment demands during COVID-19


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Connecticut regulators have opened an investigation into wage garnishment and payment demands by United Illuminating and Eversource of their customers during the pandemic despite a shut-off moratorium for nonpayment. Pictured here in 2018, a line crew for United Illuminating works to reattach an electrical cable in North Haven. (David Moran / Hartford Courant)

 

Connecticut regulators on Friday opened an investigation of payment demands by Eversource Energy and United Illuminating of consumers and wage garnishments the utilities obtained during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority acted in response to a request by the state Office of Consumer Counsel that said the utilities’ efforts, which included suing customers to recover money, violate regulators’ intent to help low-income utility customers during the public health crisis.

“From OCC’s perspective, these collection practices are in direct contradiction to (PURA’s) stated objective to protect Connecticut customers from financial distress caused by late or past due utility balances during the COVID-19 emergency,” interim Consumer Counsel Claire E. Coleman said in her request to PURA.

Responding to a request in March 2020 by Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority established a moratorium halting electricity and gas shut-offs for nonpayment. State public health orders shut many businesses, leaving hundreds of thousands of utility customers unemployed and in financial distress.