NEWPORT, R.I. (WJAR) -- A Rhode Island lawmaker has introduced legislation that would require gas, electric and cable companies to credit customer bills if they lose service for an extended period of time.
“Yes, the consumer’s bill is not racking up because the meter is off, but let’s give them a little bit of relief for the money they’re spending on hotels, on eating out, on additional food that they have to buy, food they’re throwing away,” said Rep. Julie Casimiro, a Democrat who represents District 31 in North Kingstown and Exeter.
Under the proposed bill, companies like National Grid would be required to credit the fees on customers bill if they lost gas or electricity for more than 168 hours, or seven days, within a 30-day period.
Casimiro said the utility wouldn’t be allowed to increase rates to cover the credit. The same would apply to cable companies.
“There’s lobbyists that came to me and said, ‘We already give credits, we already do this, like Verizon, and the cable,’ but National Grid needs to step up,” Casimiro said.
Some businesses like the idea.
“Of course, it impacts the restaurants and the people that are closed, but it also impacts the other stores too.” Ken Meng, a manager at Army and Navy Surplus in Newport, said.
Jonathan and Julie Bell, who live in Newport, went five days without heat or hot water during the Newport gas crisis in January.
“I was kind of scary,” Jonathan said.
He said he questions where the money would come from to credit customers if the legislation is passed, but said he believes it may help keep utility companies accountable.
“The response to the problem was good. Really good,” Jonathan said. “The fact that we had the problem means that our infrastructure is old.”
In a statement, National Grid told NBC 10, “We are continuously looking to improve the safety and reliability of Rhode Island’s energy network. Over the past five years, we’ve invested more than $800 million in the gas and electric distribution infrastructure across Rhode Island. System reliability is a top priority for us and will continue to be moving forward.”
Similar legislation was filed last year, but the bill didn’t make it out of committee.
“The time is now,” Casimiro said. “People are tired of this.”