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Prepaid Utility Accounts Blasted By Consumer Advocates

— California regulators are getting an earful this week at several public hearings about part of San Diego Gas & Electric's latest rate proposal. The utility wants to create prepaid utility accounts.

Aired 6/26/12 on KPBS News.

California regulators are getting an earful this week at several public hearings about part of San Diego Gas and Electric's latest rate proposal. The utility wants to create pre-paid utility accounts.

The voluntary prepaid accounts would allow customers who've had trouble paying their bills to get utility service without a deposit or credit check.

Prepaid Utility Accounts Blasted By Consumer Advocates
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Consumer advocates say it strips away consumer protections afforded customers who only pay for power after they use it. Opponents of the idea argue people who enter the prepaid plan lose existing power cutoff protections.

"The question is is why a regulated utility, with an essential public service, should require the people who are least able to pay, to pay upfront," Kim Malcomn of the Utility Consumer's Action Network said. "While, people with jobs, people who are affluent, are able to pay after they use their service."

SDG&E officials stress that any prepaid program would be optional and they would not allow customers with certain health conditions to take part. The idea is part of the utility's rate request before state regulators.

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