(July 1) – The state’s 2015-16 fiscal year, which began today, brings a legal change that has the potential to be very costly to consumers – the consumer watchdog at the Public Utilities Commission has lost its authority to monitor telecommunications companies in Colorado.
The Office of Consumer Counsel, which has saved Colorado consumers $1.7 billion over the last 30 years, officially stopped paying attention to telecoms corporations at midnight.
Reps. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, and Faith Winter, D-Westminster, saved the office from going extinct last session, and led the fight to preserve the OCC’s telecoms authority, but HB15-1381, their bill to extend the OCC in its current form for 11 years, was killed by Republicans in the state Senate. Rather than see the OCC vanish altogether, Reps. Esgar and Winter joined a bipartisan House majority vote on the last day of the legislative session to pass SB15-271, a Senate version stripping the OCC of its telecoms oversight.
“The OCC has been an incredibly important office for Colorado consumers,” Rep. Esgar said. “I’m disappointed that the Senate GOP put special interests ahead of consumers, but we’re not done fighting for everyday Coloradans.”
Removing the OCC’s telecoms oversight puts Colorado consumers at risk for higher 9-1-1 fees and deprives consumers of their seat at the table when the PUC reviews telecoms deregulation in 2018.
“We will try next session to restore some balance between big corporations and the ratepayers of Colorado,” Rep. Winter said. “The best way to restore that balance is to bring the Office of Consumer Counsel back into the picture.”