Legislature, Governor Must Step up to the Plate for Consumers?

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Despite a 30-year track record of going to bat for consumers and saving Coloradans $1.7 billion, Colorado’s Consumer Advocate is in danger of being permanently benched if the Colorado General Assembly and Governor do not step up to the plate and reauthorize it. With just ten days left before the Legislature adjourns, CoPIRG launched a late inning push to get the Legislature and Governor to go to bat for Colorado’s consumer MVP so it can continue to fight for consumers on electric, gas and telecommunication utility issues in the upcoming years.

“Colorado’s Consumer Advocate has gone to bat for Colorado,” said Danny Katz, Director of the consumer advocacy group CoPIRG. “But if the Legislature and Governor don’t go to bat for it, Colorado’s consumer voice on gas, electric and landline issues will be benched for good.”

Colorado’s Consumer Advocate, also known as the Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC), has fought against unwarranted rate increases and anti-consumer practices in the gas, electric and telecommunication industry since its creation in 1984. According to the OCC, it has saved consumers at least $1.7 billion in that time and saved consumers $30 for every $1 it spent.

“When Colorado’s Consumer Advocate goes to bat, consumers win,” said Katz holding an enlarged baseball bat plastered with some of the OCC’s top victories for Coloradans. “The Consumer Advocate is truly an MVP for team Colorado Consumers. We need them in the game”

The Office of Consumer Counsel’s track record extends beyond cost savings for consumers. Colorado’s Consumer Advocate has forced telecommunications companies to meet basic service standards for customers and extended the number of days consumers have to pay energy bills. 

Every few years, the Office of Consumer Counsel comes up for a review by the Legislature and must be renewed or Colorado’s Consumer Advocate will be terminated. Since its creation, the OCC has been renewed four times. This year’s review recommended the OCC be renewed again. However, with just ten days left, the OCC has yet to be heard in committee.

“We’re in the late innings and we’ve seen little movement up until this point,” said Katz. “Democrats. Republicans. House. Senate. Governor. Who’s going to step to the plate?” said Katz pointing to a home plate-shaped petition that CoPIRG plans to use to secure commitments of support from Colorado’s elected officials.

CoPIRG highlighted the ways in which Colorado’s Consumer Advocate will continue to go to bat for consumers in the next few years including:

  1. To review various requests for electric and gas rate increases that Xcel Energy, Black Hills and other gas utilities will file with the Public Utilities Commission and stop unwarranted proposals.
  2. 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 voice in reviewing the success of that deregulation and to recommend any policy changes based on poor service or unacceptably high rates.
  3. To watchdog consumer-funded money in the high cost fund created in the early 1990s. 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.
  4. To watchdog the rollout of new 911 emergency service. 911 is a critical public service that needs to work efficiently to save lives. Emergency service in Colorado is going through a major upgrade and the OCC will be a critical voice to ensure 911 service remains adequate and consumer money is not wasted.      

“We’re not going to sit in the stands and watch Colorado’s consumer MVP get benched. We’re taking our home plate and our team Colorado Consumers jersey to the Capitol and we’re going to push for Legislators and the Governor to step up to the plate for Colorado’s Consumer Advocate,” said Katz. “We’ve even designed baseball cards with the OCC’s key stats in case anyone has any doubt that our Consumer Advocate is truly an MVP.”