In the words of Milton Friedman, “The great danger to the consumer is the monopoly ... His most effective protection is free competition."

It is with this assertion in mind that I recently introduced House Bill 247, legislation which strengthens consumer protections by paving the way for the benefits of competition reaching Ohio families and businesses purchasing their electricity.

While there is a level of competition already present in Ohio's electric markets, anti-competition provisions have significantly hindered customers, forcing them to pay excess charges on their electric bills made possible through electric security plans (ESPs).  Since 2000, the Ohio Consumers' Counsel has documented more than $11 billion in PUCO-approved, above-market electric utility charges.  House Bill 247 removes a utility company's ability to use ESPs, effectively eliminating mark-ups passed on to the consumer.

Another fix proposed in House Bill 247 allows consumers to recover costs for being over-charged by their utility company. Currently, consumers are denied refunds for payments that the Ohio Supreme Court deems improper. The legislation would allow customers to rightfully recover that money.

The third major provision of the bill protects Ohioans from utilities that are subsidizing their generation operations through the use of a corporate affiliate. Current law states that an electric company cannot own the generation facility. To circumvent this law, many companies created a subsidiary to own and operate the generation plant.  In recent years, the utilities have used the poor financial performance of their unregulated generation affiliates to seek riders from customers to offset their losses. House Bill 247 would put an end to this practice by creating clear separation between generation companies and the utilities selling the electricity to consumers.

In crafting this legislation, many organizations have expressed their support for the bill, including AARP, the Ohio Farm Bureau, National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC), the Ohio Consumers' Counsel and the Ohio Manufacturers' Association, just to name a few.

Ultimately, we owe it to Ohio consumers to help them receive the most cost-effective rate when it comes to purchasing electricity. By promoting more competition we are supporting Ohio's families and small businesses, generating growth within our economy and setting our local communities up for success.

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