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PEOPLE'S COUNSEL

ORIGIN & FUNCTIONS


In 1924, the office of People's Counsel was established (Chapter 534, Acts of 1924). Maryland was the first state to form such a consumer advocacy office.

Before the Public Service Commission and the courts, the People's Counsel represents the interest of residential and noncommercial users of natural gas, electric, telephone, sewer, water, and regulated transportation services, such as taxicabs. The People's Counsel also appears before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to protect those consumers. Operating independently of the Public Service Commission, the People's Counsel evaluates matters pending before the Commission, and may request that the Commission initiate proceedings to protect consumers.

Through consumer education programs, the People's Counsel informs utility customers about their rights. It also responds to consumer complaints about business practices of energy and telecommunications providers. For low-income users, the office also works to resolve problems with service, and gas and electric bills.

Appointed to a five-year term by the Attorney General with Senate advice and consent, the People's Counsel must be an attorney-at-law of the State (Chapter 5, Acts of 2006 Special Session; Code Public Utility Companies Article, secs. 2-201 through 2-206).

The People's Counsel functions through two units: Administration, and Consumer Assistance.


ADMINISTRATION

For the People's Counsel, Administration oversees accounting, procurement, and budget preparation.

CONSUMER ASSISTANCE

In November 2003, the Consumer Assistance Unit was created under Administration, and transferred to Consumer Affairs in 2005. Consumer Affairs restructured as Consumer Assistance in 2006.

Consumer Assistance provides representation to individual consumers and investigates complaints regarding billing, or the quality of billing for utility services. For residential consumers, the office offers education, referrals, and training about utility services and changes in energy markets. To improve access to energy assistance and other benefits for low-income Marylanders, this office also coordinates outreach efforts for the People's Counsel.

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 Maryland Manual On-Line, 2009

July 1, 2009   
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