Lawmakers demand Duke Energy stop unfair billing

Demonstrators protest outside company offices

A small group of protesters waved signs outside Duke Energy's office building and called for the utility to stop its plan to extend the billing schedule for 267,000 customers, which will likely mean higher costs for customers.

The demonstration was led by State Rep. Dwight Dudley, (D-St. Petersburg), who said the utility's plan was akin to highway robbery, because adding days to the billing cycle will force many customers into a higher rate for kilowatt hours. That would increase costs for customers, even though they didn't use any additional power than in previous billing periods.

"I guarantee their bean counters know exactly how much this is going to cost, and it's in the millions they are going to profit," Dudley said.

The lawmaker is calling on the Florida Legislature to conduct hearings to investigate the billing change. Dudley said he wants to call company executives to Tallahassee for questioning.

"Have sworn testimony. Subpoena company records. Let's get to the bottom of this and see who knew what," Dudley said.

One of the problems, according to Dudley, is that so many legislators accepted large campaign contributions from Duke Energy that they rubber stamp the company's unfair business practices.

"$3.9 million in the last session alone," Dudley said.

The call for action has become bi-partisan. State Sen. Jack Latvala, (R-Clearwater), said he wants the Public Service Commission to block the billing extension by Duke Energy.

Dudley said he doubts whether Public Service Commission members will act.  

"They just roll over and play dead," said Dudley.  "They're supposed to be watch dogs, but they're lap dogs."

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