N.E.S. seeks law to cut customer protections in electricity shutoffs

Nashville Electric Service wants to make customer power shutoffs easier, according to a lawmaker sponsoring the legislation to eliminate a consumer protection rule.

Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville, District 62, told members of the House Commerce Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 26 that Nashville Electric Service “asked for this bill” because the utility wants to remove the requirement that it make a “good faith effort” to inform customers in person of a power shutoff for nonpayment. 

House Bill 1242 was brought to us by NES and telling us about a problem they have with discontinuing service to users for nonpayment of service,” Marsh said. “…they really don’t want to do (in-person notices) anymore ‘cause of danger in some certain regions and one of ‘em is cost reason.”

In testimony, Marsh inadvertently explained that the consumer protection rule requiring the in-person visit has been effective. 

“What they said they normally do is if there’s someone there, they will knock on the door and give them a chance to go and maybe within an hour go and pay their bill,” Marsh said. 

The entire discussion of the bill lasted less than three minutes. 

The companion legislation in the Tennessee Senate is sponsored by Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, District 20. 

NES, which serves more than 385,000 customers in Middle Tennessee, is one of the 12 largest public utilities in the nation with total electric sales of $1.3 billion during both 2018 and 2017, according to its website.

A bill payment could missed for many accidentally reasons. Gutting consumer protections—just because a big business asked for it—is not in the best interest of Tennesseans. 

How they voted: Voice Vote – Ayes Prevail
Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville), District 3
Rep. Clay Doggett (R-Pulaski) District 70
Rep. Clark Boyd (R-Lebanon) District 46
Rep. Kent Calfee (R-Kingston), District 32
Rep. Kirk Haston (R-Lobelville) District 72
Rep. Patsy Hazelwood (R-Signal Mountain) District 27
Rep. Jesse Chism (D-Memphis) District 85
Rep. Yusef Hakeem (D-Chattanooga) District 28
Rep. John Holsclaw, Jr. (R-Elizabethton) District 4
Rep. Chris Hurt (R-Halls) District 82
Rep. Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) District 68
Rep. Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville) District 62
Rep. Jerome Moon (R-Maryville) District 8
Rep. Dennis Powers (R-Jacksboro) District 36
Rep. Dave Wright (R-Corryton) District 19
Rep. Rick Staples (D-Knoxville) District 15
Rep. Karen Camper (D-Memphis) District 87