As Deadbeats Soar, Utilities Quick to Pull Plug

As the economy worsens, electric companies get tough on delinquent bills
By Jim O'Neill,  Newser User
Posted Nov 3, 2008 6:51 AM CST
This April 2007 photograph, released by the Tennessee Valley Authority, shows the cooling tower of the single operating reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in Spring City, Tenn.   (AP Photo/Tennessee Valley Authority)
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(Newser) – Utilities are growing increasingly aggressive about shutting off the juice even as more customers struggle to pay their bills in a sinking economy, reports the Wall Street Journal. The trend has regulators and consumer advocates worried companies have become too focused on their bottom lines, but utilities say they’re battling rising costs and trying to keep shareholders happy.

Regulators say the growing number of disconnects—Pennsylvania’s PPL Corp. increased shutoffs 78% this year—has begun to hit middle-class consumers as well, exacerbated by rising utility rates. And experts expect it to get worse as the economy continues to sputter. Some regulators, like those in California, are reviewing shutoff criteria to make sure they’re fair.