Assembly Panel Advances DeAngelo Consumer Bills to Provide VoIP Refunds, 30- Day Grace Periods on In
(TRENTON) - The Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee gave the okay to advance three bills -- sponsored by Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo--aiming to protect customers from paying for VoIP service interruption, accruing mounting interest on unpaid utility bills, and ensuring families are paying only for the water and sewer services used. "We have worked tirelessly in the legislature and the committee to do more for the working class New Jerseyans and the burden of costly utility bills for families," said DeAngelo (D-Mercer, Middlesex). "By bringing consistency to the law, we can, hopefully, provide relief to significant residents." One bill (A-107) would direct the Board of Public Utilities to require telecommunications companies that offer Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and other internet based telephone services, on a prorated basis, to adjust a customer's bill, or provide a refund to the customer, who has experienced a service interruption for a period of 24 hours. The bill also directs the companies to provide the bill adjustment or refund without requiring the customer to take any action. Another bill (A-109) would provide, in particular, and with regard to each type of utility company, that when a payment for water and sewer services is owed by a consumer and is not paid when due, interest will accrue on only that part of the amount that is due and payable and that remains unpaid for 30 days following the established payment due date, as identified on the consumer's bill or other statement of water or sewer service usage. Current law applies inconsistent rules with regard to the accrual of interest on late water bill payments. The rules vary for municipally-owned water and sewer facilities. "Slight changes in the law can make a sizable difference to working families and paying their utility bills," continued DeAngelo. "Household budgets should not be nickel and dimed by interest rates, unpredictable costs and paying for interrupted services. These are good pro-consumer measures that will put money back in the pockets of New Jersey's families." The last bill (A-112) would require local public authorities that charge for water and sewer services to base residential customers' bills exclusively upon metered consumption. These charges, which will be tied to consumption, 'improve residential consumers' awareness of the level and cost associated with their frequent water consumption. As such, residents would potentially be inclined to seek lower charges by instituting conservation methods, particularly in water usage. DeAngelo said the intent of this bill is to make it a uniform practice for local public authorities providing water and sewer services to base their charges for residential services on metered consumption. With the committee's approval, each bill can now be considered for a vote on the Assembly floor.