The Office of Consumer Advocate (OCA) is a state agency that represents the interests of Pennsylvania utility consumers before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), federal regulatory agencies, and state and federal courts. The OCA was created by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 1976 and is an independent office within the Office of Attorney General.
The OCA has a staff of Attorneys assisted by Analysts, Administrative and Clerical Support Staff, Consumer Service Representatives and Consumer Liaisons who offer consumer education services.
Whenever consumers have questions or problems with their electric, natural gas, telecommunications, water or wastewater service, the OCA is there to help.
The Consumer's Voice in Utility Regulation
The OCA represents consumers in cases before the PUC involving a wide range of utility issues. These include rate increase cases, purchased gas cost cases, retail competition issues, mergers, and alternative regulation plans. The OCA is involved in rulemakings, policy statements, and state and federal level cases that involve either the price consumers pay for vital utility service or the quality of service they receive. The office uses its resources to help the greatest number of consumers. The OCA generally stresses the interests of residential consumers.
The OCA tries to keep utilities from charging more than they need to provide safe and adequate service to consumers. The OCA can appeal a PUC final decision if it believes the decision is in error and is harmful to consumers. The OCA has filed many appeals from PUC decisions. Some have gone as far as the Pennsylvania and United States Supreme Courts.
The Consumer's Voice in Utility Competition and Policy Changes
Laws and policies concerning utility service to consumers are changing rapidly. In the past, most consumers could only choose one company for their electric, telephone or natural gas service. In recent years, both state and federal lawmakers and policymakers have opened many areas of the utility industry to competition. The OCA is the consumer’s voice in these policy debates and in the cases resulting from these policy changes. The OCA’s goal is to have all Pennsylvania consumers benefit from these changes and to make sure that consumers are protected as these changes occur. The office has actively participated in the legislative and policy debates surrounding utility competition and has been involved in cases regarding competition in the electric, natural gas and telecommunications industries in Pennsylvania.
Help Consumers with Utility Complaints
The OCA can help a consumer or a group of consumers with utility complaints. Consumers may have problems with their utility bills or quality of service.
Consumers may want to have a larger toll-free calling area or they may need help in getting utility service extended to their homes. Many problems and questions arise concerning local and long distance telephone options and gas and electric bills. The OCA responds to all consumer contacts, answers questions and resolves disputes with utility companies.
Pennsylvania consumers can call the OCA’s toll-free call center at 800-684-6560. Members of OCA staff respond to all customer contacts by providing information or otherwise resolving their complaints and concerns.
The OCA participates in many public forums, seminars, community meetings and through the media to educate consumers on current utility issues. Without adequate consumer education, consumers will not benefit from the increased choices made possible by utility restructuring.
The office’s website at www.oca.state.pa.us has tips, testimony and other educational information. The OCA also publishes Residential Electric and Natural Gas Shopping Guides. They provide “apples-to-apples” price comparisons for alternative suppliers in each utility’s service area.