|State of New Jersey
Division of Rate Counsel
31 Clinton Street
Newark, NJ 07101
Phone: (973) 648-2690 Fax: (973) 648-2193
For Immediate Release:
November 8, 2010
STEFANIE A. BRAND
For Further Information
(PIO - Rate Counsel)
Rate Counsel Files Challenge to PSE&G's Proposed
Reporting of Customer Info to Credit Bureau
Plan Goes Against NJ Statute
(Newark, NJ) - The Division of Rate Counsel today filed a petition with the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) requesting that it halt PSE&G's plan to begin reporting payment histories of all its residential, commercial and industrial electric and gas customers, whether they are delinquent or not, to the consumer credit agency Experian.
"Under the laws of this state, PSE&G has no right to disclose individual customer information to a third party without their consent," said Rate Counsel Director Stefanie Brand. "This type of practice could harm all ratepayers, and opens up the floodgates on utility disclosure of personal information," she said.
PSE&G announced in September that it would begin to notify Experian of its customers' payment history as early as January 2011. Rate Counsel argues in its petition that PSE&G's disclosure of individual proprietary information regarding its customers to a consumer credit reporting agency violates an express prohibition of state law.
Brand said that other regulated electric and gas utilities in New Jersey do not disclose customer payment information. Brand said that if PSE&G is allowed to move forward with its plan, customers may face the risk of erroneous credit reporting. "They are proposing to report information on over 2 million customers per month," Brand noted. "Mistakes are bound to occur."
"During these tough economic times, everyone is struggling to stretch every dollar, and a person's payment information and credit rating and report can affect whether they get a loan or a job," said Brand. "It's not fair to subject consumers to this unnecessary and unlawful exposure of their personal information."
The Division of Rate Counsel's petition includes the following requests:
- That the BPU declare that PSE&G's proposed disclosure violates state law;
- That PSE&G be prohibited from taking any further action to implement its proposal to disclose individual proprietary information;
- That PSE&G be ordered to publish a retraction of this announced proposal via press release, bill insert and its web site; and
- That PSE&G be ordered to retrieve any individual proprietary information that it already has provided pursuant to its September 2010 proposal to any third party including any consumer credit reporting agency.
"Ratepayers have a right to expect that their personal information will not be disclosed by utilities," added Brand. "The statute prohibits it and confidence in the regulatory system requires it."
About the Division of Rate Counsel
The Division of Rate Counsel represents and protects the interests of all utility customers - residential, small business, commercial and industrial - whenever utilities in New Jersey seek changes in their rates for delivery of natural gas, electric, water, wastewater, telephone or cable TV services. Rate Counsel also advocates for consumers in certain insurance matters. The mission of the Division is to make sure that all classes of utility consumers receive safe, adequate and essential services at affordable rates that are just and nondiscriminatory. Additional information on this and other utility matters can be found at the Division's website at http://www.state.nj.us/rpa/.