Governor Steps up to the Plate for Consumers

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Calls for Full Reauthorization of Colorado’s Consumer Advocate


Governor John Hickenlooper stepped up to the plate for consumers on Monday by calling for the full reauthorization of Colorado’s Consumer Advocate, the Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC). For 30 years, the OCC has gone to bat for consumers and saved Coloradans $1.7 billion but could be permanently benched if the Legislature does not renew the agency by May 6th.

“We applaud the Governor for stepping up to the plate for Colorado’s Consumer Advocate,” said Danny Katz, Director of the consumer advocacy group CoPIRG. “The Governor is standing with consumers. For every dollar Colorado’s Consumer Advocate has spent, Colorado consumers have seen $30 in savings. When they go to bat, we all win.”

The announcement comes days before the Colorado Senate Committee on Business, Labor and Technology hears a bill that would reauthorize the OCC to advocate for consumers on gas and electric issues but would bench Colorado’s consumer MVP on telecommunication issues. The bill, SB15-271, is sponsored by Senator Jerry Sonnenberg.

CoPIRG highlighted a number of telecommunication issues that will go before the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) over the next few years that the OCC will have a role in including:

  1. To monitor the deregulation of much of the landline telephone services in the state. Pursuant to legislation passed by the Legislature last year, telephone landline service is going through an expansive deregulation process. In 2018, the OCC will be a critical consumer voice as the PUC reviews the success of that deregulation. The OCC could advocate for changes based on poor service or unacceptably high rates.
  2. To watchdog consumer-funded money in the high cost fund.  The high cost fund subsidizes telephone companies to ensure adequate service is provided in rural areas. With an estimated $40 million still left in the fund, the OCC needs to ensure consumer money is not wasted on unnecessary telephone company subsidies.
  3. To watchdog the rollout of new 911 emergency service. 911 is a critical public service that needs to work efficiently to save lives. With technological advances on the horizon, emergency service in Colorado could see a major upgrade and the OCC will be a critical voice to ensure 911 service remains effective and consumer money is not wasted.      

“Now’s not the time to cut Colorado’s Consumer Advocate,” said Katz. “Senator Sonnenberg’s bill as written removes the consumer’s voice, a voice that has saved Coloradans hundreds of millions of dollars over the years. With big changes coming in the telephone industry and tens of millions of dollars on the line, it doesn’t make sense to eliminate the office whose sole mission to look out for consumers.”

At the same time that the Governor threw his support behind a fully reauthorized OCC, a bill was introduced in the Colorado House that would allow the office to continue to advocate on behalf of consumers on telecommunication issues before the PUC for the next 11 years. The bill, HB15-1381, sponsored by Representatives Winter and Esgar and Senator Garcia, will also be up in committee this week.       

“Reauthorize Colorado’s Consumer Advocate and ensure it can continue to be fight and win for consumers on gas, electric and telephone issues,” said Katz.