The Office of People's Counsel (OPC) is an independent state agency that represents Maryland's residential utility consumers. We actively:
Represent residential consumer interests in State and Federal regulatory and court proceedings,
Investigate consumer complaints,
Help resolve consumer problems with utility services and
Help consumers locate financial aid for utility bills.
Work with our community partners to provide education and training about utility customer rights.
The Office of People's Counsel is the advocate for Maryland's residential utility rate payer. The electric industry in Maryland is under transition from regulation to free market competition, or Electric Choice for the supply portion of the industry. The delivery portion of the industry is still regulated. The OPC is continually monitoring the adjustments being made by the industry to account for the expenses that are attributable between the delivery portion of the industry and the supply part, so that the residential customer does not bear a disproportionate part of the costs.
Similarly in the natural gas industry, where deregulation was more the result of changes in regulations at the federal level over many years, the companies involved have voluntarily introduced Gas Choice for the commodity part of the industry. Competition is being promoted to encourage the suppliers of gas to enter the Maryland market, and to have an impact on the prices consumers pay. The OPC is involved in evaluating all aspects of cost recovery proposals by the industry to the PSC, again to ensure that the residential customer does not bear an improper burden of the expenses.
The telephone industry in Maryland has a large number of companies licensed to serve the market. The OPC does not address any aspect of the wireless telephone industry, which is completely unregulated in Maryland. There are industry issues that have been pending before the Federal Communications Commission for some time in which the OPC has filed positions on behalf of Maryland consumers. The OPC also investigates complaints about the service or the billing received by individual customers from telephone companies.
The independent water system operators in Maryland are a group monitored and investigated by the PSC and the OPC when complaints are made by customers. Usually complaints relate to the quality of the product received, or involve billing disputes. Municipal water systems have separate regulatory bodies, like the Baltimore City Municipal Water System and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. There are not many private water systems in Maryland, but they still present consumer issues that at times cannot be resolved between the customer and the company. The OPC helps the consumer have a voice heard during the investigation of complaints.