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State Lawmakers Set to Cap Sharp Rate Hikes

HONESDALE — The manager of the Country Dawn Gift Shoppe in Honesdale can`t wait for spring.

A winter of extreme snow and cold didn`t help business.

Then came the electric bills.

“It hurts,” said store manager JoAnn Ostrander who said their electric bill doubled from December to January.

When the store’s owner opened the February bill, their rates doubled again.

“She was hit and knocked off her feet when she opened the bill and it was $3,200,” said Ostrander.

Thousands are frustrated and want action. As we’ve covered the story, many understand their variable rates would go up during a winter of sustained cold, but no one believed rates would triple or quadruple. Now, they want state lawmakers to do something.

“There are people who shouldn’t be signing up for, and can’t afford to sign up for variable rates, that are being swayed by the marketing tactics used in some cases,” said State Representative Robert Godshall of Montgomery County.

The Republican chairs the Pennsylvania House Consumer Affairs Committee which held hearings in Harrisburg on the jump in electric costs.

Lawmakers are considering a bill that could cap how much companies can raise rates on customers with variable rates.

A spokesman for alternative energy companies said some of the companies hiked rates argued the marketplace will still work for consumers. Ritchie Hudson said companies are offering rebates, or a chance for customers to spread out their payments in the wake of the high bills.

“We would caution against any policies that would seek to over regulate the industry and post price caps and eliminate options for customers,” said Hudson.

The manager of the Country Dawn Shoppe in Honesdale is only looking at options for the business to recover from a winter of high electric bills.

“It`s going to take right up until the summer time,” said JoAnn Ostrander.

In the meantime, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane continues her investigation into the high electric rates and bills.

One of the investigation’s focus is a look at print ads mailed to potential customers by companies promising lower rates, the same companies that tripled or even quadrupled the price of electricity in the last two months. None of this offers immediate relief to people and businesses reeling from two months of ultra high electric bills.



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