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What you should know about the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT)

By Tiffany Reynolds

What is the Public Utility Commission of Texas?

The Public Utility Commission of Texas, also known as PUCT, regulates Texas electricity, telecommunications, and water and sewage utilities. They handle the regulation of rates and retail services, such as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and the capacity market. They also offer customer assistance.

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The Public Utility Commission was started in 1975 when the Texas Legislature enacted PURA, the Public Utility Regulatory Act. This law regulates the services and rates of telecommunications and electrical utilities.

Since then, the PUCT’s mission has gone from just regulating rates and services to overseeing compliance enforcement of rules and statutes for the telecommunications and electrical industries as well as oversight of competitive retail and wholesale markets. They also implement legislation on respective utilities and promote high-quality infrastructure as part of their mission.

What role do they play in the electric utility industry?

The Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 changed the PUCT’s role in the electrical markets by creating a competitive market to foster competition. The benefits of the added competition were that prices were kept from getting too high. Als0 customers could choose where they got their utilities.

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Today, the PUCT regulates utilities in Texas, resolves customer complaints, protects customers, and enforces rules, regulations, and laws governing electrical utilities.

Regulates utilities in Texas

Before the PUCT started regulating electric markets, cities in Texas were responsible for regulating the service and rates of their electric utilities. This meant that the cities could choose their electrical rates.

When Congress passed the Power Plant and Industrial Fuel Use Act, utilities were forced to stop using natural gas and instead use nuclear and coal. Texas needed additional power generation. This caused electricity prices to rise. In 1999, the Texas Senate passed a bill requiring ERCOT to create competition that would control the price.

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Today, the PUCT commission, appointed by the governor of Texas, regulates the generation, transmission, and supply of utilities, such as local exchange companies — investor-owned utilities where competition is not yet in place — and utilities where there is competition. That means all of the electrical utilities in the state answer to the PUCT and must comply with their rules and Texas law.

Resolves consumer complaints

When customers have issues with their electrical service, they can make informal or formal complaints with the PUC. An example would be a problem with an electrical bill. If a customer is unsatisfied after making an informal complaint, they may make a formal complaint by following the complaint procedure.

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To file a formal complaint with the PUC, customers must follow the PUC’s procedural rules. First, they will put the following information on the complaint document:

  • their name,
  • their account number,
  • their telephone number,
  • the name of the electric or telecommunications service provider,
  • a description of the facts that led to the complaint,
  • the relief sought for a disputed amount, and
  • if and when the customer attempted an informal complaint.

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The complaint will get a docket number and an assigned judge who will require the other party to respond within a certain time. A hearing, similar to a trial with evidence and testimony, may be necessary if there is any dispute about the complaint and the facts of the case. The PUCT may be able to order relief in the customer’s favor. For example, a bill may need to be corrected.

Aids the protection of customers

In addition to resolving complaints, The PUCT will also protect a consumer’s rights. If consumers feel their rights have been violated, they can make a formal complaint. Information about the rights of electric customers can be found on the PUCT website.

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Certain rights that electrical customers have are:

  • Consumers have the right not to be discriminated against.
  • Consumers have the right not to have unauthorized switches or charges.
  • Complaints must be investigated promptly.
  • Customer-specific information must be kept private.
  • A fact sheet about fees and other information about electric plans must be given to customers.
  • The terms of service must be provided.
  • The document “Your Rights as a Customer” must be provided.
  • All information must be made available in English, Spanish, or other language used in the marketing of the service.
  • Electric providers must notify customers of their contract’s expiration within 30 days before the expiration date.

In addition to handling and resolving informal and formal complaints, the PUCT protects customers by providing competition. They make sure customers aren’t under an electrical distribution monopoly.

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Twenty years ago, Texas saw electricity deregulation for the first time. That means no single company owns all the power plants, distribution networks, and transmission lines. It also means that consumers can choose where they get their electricity. The best way to choose your electrical distributor and get the best rates is by using Power Wizard.

Compliance enforcement

In 1999, Texan lawmakers restructured the electrical industry with new laws ensuring the protection of customers’ rights in the competitive environment of electrical utilities. This change made the PUCT focus not just on regulating rates but also on the oversight of markets and compliance enforcement of rules and laws.

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Electrical utilities are subject to both state and federal laws and regulations. If an electrical company breaks any of these rules or laws, they will have to answer to the PUCT.

Utilities must comply with specific standards and regulations involving power generation, distribution, and infrastructure. For example, Chapter 25 of the rules and laws states that the PUCT may take appropriate enforcement action if an electric service provider does not keep high standards of its infrastructure and reliability and if the provider’s system and feeder performance are not properly operated and maintained per the rules.

How residential customers can rely on the PUC

Among other responsibilities, the Public Utility Commission of Texas handles complaints in your service territory and regulates electricity rates and markets. They enable and encourage competition and help protect consumers. Contact the PUCT for help if you have a complaint about an electrical service provider or if you feel your rights have been violated.

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One of the benefits of the PUCT is that it regulates competition, causing multiple power companies to vie for your money to distribute their electricity to your home. This allows customers like you to choose where your power is distributed from, helping you to find the best rates.

To find the most competitive rates, use Power Wizard’s DIY tool that checks hundreds of plans in seconds using data to find the best rates for you. You simply have to enter your ZIP code and it will match you with the best plans and the lowest rates. After that, you can sign up for a service offering to unlock the best plan for you. Choose to become a VIP for more perks.

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Visit Power Wizard’s “how it works” page to see how easy it is to use the shopping tool. Power Wizard can help you find the best and most affordable plans.


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