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McKee seeks to protect consumers in energy marketplace

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — After dealing with the issue first-hand, Lt. Gov. Dan McKee is touting new legislation that seeks to protect consumers by establishing stronger regulations for third-party energy suppliers.

McKee has made the issue of energy shopping and savings one of his priorities. In 2015, he and the Division of Public Utilities & Carriers launched a website aiming to help people shop around for the best rates.

Now, he’s looking to ensure ratepayers don’t fall victim to deceptive sales tactics, such as being automatically signed up for new contracts at higher rates.

McKee signed up with a third-party company to get electricity at a lower rate than National Grid. The contract is set to expire at the end of the month but automatic renewal is legal under state law, and he might not be able to get out in time.

“I told them I want to cancel at the end of the month. They told me you may have another billing cycle or two,” McKee recalled.

“That’s where the scam comes in,” he added. “That’s where the predatory practice comes in.”

McKee has put forth bills in the House and Senate that would not only prohibit companies from automatically renewing customer contracts, but also require that customers receive written notice of contract expiration dates and be provided with the option to cancel online.

He believes these rules would save ratepayers millions of dollars.

“Rhode Island has experienced, from 2013-2017, we found that through reports that came out last March, consumers and ratepayers have paid almost $28 million more than what they saved,” he explained.

McKee said if these alternative power suppliers don’t like the new requirements, they can take their business elsewhere.

“If they object because somehow they need those practices that are in place right now that penalize ratepayers to do business, then they shouldn’t be doing business in Rhode Island,” he added. “What we want to make sure is that the consumer, the ratepayer is protected.”

The legislation was heard last week by the House Corporations Committee and held for further study. It has yet to be scheduled for a committee hearing on the Senate side.

Eyewitness News reached out to several third-party utility companies for comment but did not hear back.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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