Texas' deregulated power market showing its downside

AUSTIN — Prices aren't the only thing skyrocketing in the state's deregulated electricity market.

Amid continuing company failures — and the resulting forced transfer of tens of thousands of ratepayers to default electric companies — Texans in growing numbers are griping about their ill treatment by power companies.

According to the Texas Public Utility Commission, complaints related to the electric market jumped from 704 in January to 1,123 in May. Complaints against three of the four recently failed electric companies jumped about 2,400 percent, from about 20 at the beginning of the year to 508 in May.

E-mails and phone calls also continue streaming into the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Frustrated consumers tell stories of poor treatment by their regular electric competitors, confusing PUC rules, uninformed marketers and the near impossibility of obtaining reliable information about the financial status of companies seeking their business.

Carol Bierdrzycki, director of the Texas Ratepayers’ Organization to Save Energy, says it's time to declare the electric market a bona fide disaster. The consumer advocate urges the Texas Legislature to make dramatic changes.

"This whole system is defective," she said.

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