Washington electricity, natural gas firms led complaint count in 2012

Regulated electric and natural gas companies had the most consumer complaints filed against them in Washington state last year, while telecommunications companies came in a close second, according to state regulators, who recently announced their annual list of industries that bring in the most consumer complaints.

In 2012, consumer-protection staff of the Utilities and Transportation Commission received 589 complaints against regulated electric and natural gas companies from customers with billing disputes, disconnect threats, quality of service and customer-service issues.

Telecom companies followed with 516 consumer complaints filed against regulated landline telephone companies in 2012 for billing disputes, disconnect threats, quality of service and customer service issues, according to the commission .

The solid waste industry was third, with 187 complaints filed against regulated garbage and recycling companies, although complaints were up 123 percent from the previous year. The rise in solid waste complaints was due to Waste Management’s eight-day labor dispute in the summer of 2012, according to state officials.

The commission also reported that staff saved consumers more than $120,000 in 2012 through customer credits and refunds. They investigated 1,343 complaints for customers of regulated companies, and recorded more than 550,000 violations for failure to comply with state rules and  laws.

In addition to resolving complaints, the commission’s Consumer Protection Help Line received about 10,000 telephone calls and 1,600 emails and letters from the public.

The state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission regulates the rates and services of telecommunications companies, investor-owned electric utilities, natural gas and water companies, garbage-collection haulers, residential moving and charter-bus companies, and commercial ferries.

Consumers can file a complaint against a regulated company by calling the Consumer Protection Help Line at 1-888-333-WUTC, emailing consumer@utc.wa.gov or filing an online complaint at www.utc.wa.gov/fileacomplaint.

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