TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner that would create greater consumer protections for utility customers by establishing requirements and contract standards aimed at providing transparency among gas and electrical companies is now law.
“This new law will help keep utility companies honest and offer greater transparency so that consumers are informed fully of the services they are signing up for and the contract terms,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “People should not be faced with sticker shock when they get their bills, or be burdened with unexpected fees. This will provide an additional level of protection for New Jersey residents by ensuring they have clear information regarding the gas and electric service they have purchased.”
Bill S-2468, prohibits electric power and gas suppliers from providing services to customers in the state unless they provide a one-page information sheet in 12-point font, available in English and Spanish, summarizing the terms and conditions of their contracts. The contract, according to the legislation, would also need to be provided in 12-point font. The supplier would also be required to clarify in the one-page sheet whether the contract is a fixed or variable rate as well as provide a brief explanation of the difference and include whether fluctuations may affect the price of the variable rate contracts. Furthermore, the bill would prohibit companies from providing a customer’s telephone number, e-mail or postal address to other suppliers if the customer’s telephone number appears on the federal or state do-not-call list.
In 1999, New Jersey deregulated the sale of electricity and natural gas, paving the way for a new industry of third party electric and gas suppliers. With the supply portion open to competition, customers could now shop for the best price on energy supply. While electric and natural gas distribution utilities still deliver that supply through their wires and pipes – and respond to emergencies, should they arise – regardless of where the supply is purchased, the third party suppliers offer prices that often appear to be lower than the price from the utility.
S-2468 takes effect 150 days from today and shall apply to contracts formed or renewed on or after the effective date of this act.