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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 92438 Find in a Library
Title: Utility Consumer Mediation and Arbitration - The Pennslyvania Consumer Services Model (From Consumer Dispute Resolution - Exploring the Alternatives, P 93-127, Larry Ray and Deborah Smolover, ed. - See NCJ-91236)
Author(s): D Hyman
Date Published: 1983
Page Count: 35
Sponsoring Agency: American Bar Assoc
Washington, DC 20036
Sale Source: American Bar Assoc
Special Cmtte on Resolution of Minor Disputes
1800 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study describes and evaluates the effectiveness of Pennsylvania's Bureau of Consumer Services, BCS, in its implementation of Federal guidelines for due process procedures in the settlement of disputes between energy consumers and utility companies.
Abstract: Pennsylvania statutes which are comparable to Federal guidelines establish statewide regulations requiring that due process procedures be followed by both consumers and utility companies when problems or complaints arise or when termination of service for nonpayment or other reasons is threatened. The BCS is authorized within the Public Utility Commission to ensure proper action on behalf of all parties in the administration of consumer regulations. The BCS is authorized to receive complaints orally or in writing, to informally negotiate settlement agreements between the two parties, to investigate the complaint by any appropriate means, and to issue the complaining party and the utility company an informal report with findings and a decision. Because BCS orders are binding on both parties and have been upheld as such in appeals, a process which begins with informal negotiation and mediation may ultimately yield a decision through compulsory arbitration. Further, the entry of the BCS into the oversight and rate-case process through its research and information systems unit introduces class action and proxy advocacy characteristics into the model. Evaluation indicates that the BCS provides for a much higher volume of settlement decisions at much more reasonable cost to consumers, utilities, and the public than more formal proceedings. The availability of appeal to the more formal process provides assurance of full due process for all parties. Twenty-one references are provided. Diagrams and an analysis of relevant Pennsylvania statutes are appended.
Index Term(s): Alternative dispute settlement; Arbitration; Consumer protection; Mediation; Pennsylvania
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