Recharge Texas, a group that I’ve often disagreed with in the past, released a new report discussing how PUC complaints have declined year over year from their peak in 2010. Of course, TCAP was also quick to point out that the amount of complaints is still exceptionally higher than they were during the regulated era. Their original press release can be found here, while an additional article citing some of that information and appeared in the Fort-Worth Star Telegram can be found here.
Of course, Recharge Texas took a similar stance last summer when they attempted to analyze and interpret the amount of customer complaints as a sign as extreme dissatisfaction with the electricity market in general. However, I disagreed, feeling that a sign of people participating in the Texas electricity market and voicing their dissatisfaction is a good thing, and the sign of a healthy and functioning market. Unlike their last article, at least in this article Recharge Texas passingly admits that the rise of the Internet and the ease with which customers can now file complaints has almost certainly encouraged customers to take a hand in the electricity market. Of course they don’t believe that it accounts for the level of increase from regulated to deregulated markets. This time around Recharge Texas also recognizes the massive population increase in Texas (almost 20% from just 2005 alone), although they again downplay that role in the increased number of complaints over the regulated era. I’m of the opinion that neither of those things should be downplayed at all, and are major factors in the total number of complaints.
The Recharge Texas report still completely failed to recognize the fact that having market choice alone would be a major reason for an increase in complaints alone. After all, why would people take time to complain before when there was only one game in town and they didn’t have a choice no matter how unhappy they might have been?
Recharge Texas’s analysis of course directly contradicts this summer’s latest results from the J.D. Power & Associates survey, which had staggeringly positive results for deregulated electricity. First, the survey indicated that the customer satisfaction in Texas was the highest it has ever been since the first survey was released in 2008. Additionally, the survey revealed that customers in deregulated areas of Texas had a higher satisfaction level of more than 30 points over the areas of Texas that are still regulated. And finally, the study revealed that the customer satisfaction of areas with electric choice was higher than the national average against every other state. So not only are Texans happier with their deregulated electricity service than the rest of the country, the Texans with retail choice are happier than the Texans without retail choice. I’d say that debunks the notion that high PUC complaints are indicative of widespread satisfaction with deregulated electricity.
That doesn’t mean the report was completely without merit. The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram article focused on potential changes to continue to improve things for the customer and make the retail electricity market more transparent, which can only be a good thing for customers. Both articles are worth giving a read, I’d just advise people keep an open mind while absorbing the information.