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Consumer Protection Office seeks probe into estimated electricity usage billing

By on February 24, 2021

Prepa headquarters in San Juan (File)

Files request with Energy Bureau to investigate utility’s ‘bill correction’ practice

SAN JUAN — The executive director of the Independent Office for Consumer Protection (OIPC by its Spanish initials), Hannia Rivera Díaz, said Wednesday that she filed a request for investigation with the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau (PREB) to investigate the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (Prepa) “bill correction” practice.

Rivera explained that a few months ago, she noticed a considerable increase in the number of Prepa customers who go to her office in search of a solution to the fact that the utility estimates their electricity consumption for prolonged periods, sometimes years, and then receive an invoice with an adjustment identified as a “bill correction” or as “current charges.”

“In the bills of some of these consumers, the charges exceed thousands of dollars and it is not until the citizen takes steps with the Authority that they become aware that the main reason for such a charge is the practice of estimating the invoices. Although it is true that the estimation of invoices in itself is not a practice that is prohibited by law, the bill corrections that the Authority makes as a result of said action are illegal, as they exceed the 120 days allowed by Act 272-2002 for reporting calculation errors. It should be noted that, in 100 percent of the cases dealt with at the OIPC, the bill corrections made exceed the aforementioned term,” the official said.

The OIPC director also indicated that she unsuccessful negotiated with Prepa representatives, adding that they argued that if the consumer does not specifically request that an adjustment be made under Act 272, utility employees do not perform the adjustment even when the customer objects to the bill.

“These actions affect the provision of a reliable service, violate the public energy policy of the Government of Puerto Rico and have the effect of restricting the right of consumers to exhaust administrative remedies and due process of law. It also forces them to make inaccurate, unfair and unreasonable payments through a process plagued by a lack of transparency and corrections. This is why we ask that it be investigated and the necessary corrective measures be issued. The former, with the objective that the people of Puerto Rico have our guarantee, that a reliable, efficient and transparent electrical system is being offered, as dictated by the public energy policy of our country,” Rivera added.

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