Pennsylvania

PUC, Widener Law School, Pennsylvania Bar Association, Advocates Partnership Provides Legal Help for Low-Income Consumers Filing Utility Complaints

Authored By: Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission

Information

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) joins Widener University School of Law, the Pennsylvania Bar Association Pro Bono Program and low-income advocates in publicizing a program to help low-income consumers receive legal help in navigating the complaint process before the PUC.

“Often complaints before the PUC deal with complex legal issues which can also be emotional issues for consumers,” said PUC Commissioner James H. Cawley. “Filing a complaint can be an intimidating process for consumers who find themselves facing off against utility company attorneys. This program is a way for qualifying low-income consumers to have the opportunity for legal representation during the complaint process.”

You are not required to have a lawyer to represent you in the complaint process before the PUC. However, if you are interested in receiving legal representation, you may contact the Widener Harrisburg Civil Law Clinic located at 3605 Vartan Way, Harrisburg, PA 17110, by phone at 717-541-0320 or via email at lawclinichb@mail.widener.edu. For additional information see Widener Harrisburg's Civil Law Clinic's website. Based on your income, legal representation may be available to you at no cost or a reduced fee.

 “Low-income individuals who are qualified for the legal assistance offered by this program face economic challenges every day; often having to choose between heating and eating. Loss of water, electric or heat is a critical life event” said Harry Geller, co- director of the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project (PULP), which provides statewide assistance and advocacy in utility matters to low income utility consumers. “Legal representation will not only assist an individual to navigate the PUC complaint process but, may result in a settlement or decision which will enable a family to maintain an essential utility service. PULP is pleased to play a part in this effort and we are hopeful it can benefit many people in need.”

Acting Consumer Advocate Tanya McCloskey said: “The need for legal services to assist low income complainants that have issues with their utility service far exceeds the assistance currently available to them. The OCA is gratified to have been part of the collaboration leading to the expansion of the Widener Law clinic and the PBA pro bono program that will meet some of that need.”

Pennsylvania Bar Association President Forest N. Myers of Shippensburg said: “The PBA and its volunteer lawyers are pleased to work with the PUC and the Widener School of Law in our joint effort to encourage consumers to take advantage of our new program and obtain the skilled legal counsel they need when filing complex PUC complaints.”

If a consumer’s concerns are not resolved through the informal complaint process, a formal complaint can be filed with the PUC. In 2012, the PUC received 1,729 formal complaints from consumers. Of those, a vast majority of consumers represented themselves.

Disputes typically include issues regarding high bills, termination of service and ability to pay. Filing a formal complaint can include hearings before a PUC administrative law judge, formal arguments, cross examination as well as the filing of briefs and exceptions to the judge’s decisions. The utilities are represented by attorneys. Under this new program, consumers who are income qualified may seek legal representation through Widener, regardless of their ability to pay legal fees.


Orignal Content: http://www.puc.pa.gov/about_puc/press_releases.aspx?ShowPR=3296