In response to what he calls "mind-boggling" rate increases for electricity this winter, Sen. Charles Schumer is asking two federal agencies to determine if customers were overcharged. Schumer says he wants the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to investigate the wholesale electric and gas markets to make sure there wasn't price gouging.
"The FTC is the premier consumer regulator when consumers are ripped off," Schumer said. "FERC would look at wholesale rates and things like that, relationships between the different parts of the grid."
Schumer says the cold weather played a role in the average rate increases, but outpace what would normally be expected. He says average hikes ranged from a low of about 10 percent for NYSEG customers, to 60 percent or more for National Grid customers.
"Our office is deluged with calls," Schumer said. "People are just amazed. And the calls we get are obviously people who exceed the averages I've given. The 65, 25, 35, those are pretty high to begin with. A lot of times, they've used less electricity and the rates are still going up."
The senator says colder temperatures do play a role in the higher electricity costs, but says there are also several ways the cost could be artificially inflated, including utilities charging more for energy production than they have to or natural gas providers withholding supplies to increase prices.