Lawmakers introduce bill to eliminate monthly Smart Meter opt out charge

Maryland lawmakers have introduced a bipartisan effort to eliminate a monthly opt-out fee charged by utility companies that use Smart Meters.

The Public Service Commission last month voted to allow energy companies to charge a one-time fee of $75 and a monthly fee of $11 to $17 if you decide to opt out of using Smart Meters in your home.

Republican Del. Glen Glass was one of several lawmakers who introduced a bill that would make it illegal for energy companies to charge you "forever" fees for services you don't use.

“In the worst economy in 80 years the citizens of Maryland a forever fee to opt out,” Glass said in disbelief at a press briefing Tuesday.

The bill would also make it illegal for energy companies to share your personal information to third parties.

Del. Pat McDonough (R-Baltimore, Harford) said the Public Service Commission is taking care of the energy companies and not consumers.

“The commission has been providing them with increase after increase,” McDonough said. “There are no consumer members of that commission. It is nothing but a group of flunkeys for the power companies and if you don't believe it just look at the record.”

Lynn Beiber, of Bowie, called it “cut throat capitalism at its worst.

“The energy companies are investor owned and they put profit before public safety and public health as usual,” she said.

But energy companies argue not using a Smart Meter costs the company money.

“There has a cost associated with that when it comes to rolling trucks to read those meters and having two billing systems,” Tom Dennison, a representative of Southern Maryland Energy Cooperative, said.

Del. Frank Conway, a Democrat representing Baltimore City, contended “technology is supposed to help us.

“So if were paying for this new technology shouldn't we get a break, shouldn't we get a discount? When are those words going to come. I haven't seen or heard of a break from BGE yet,” he added.

Baltimore Gas and Electric charges the lowest monthly opt-out fee of $11 a month. Other energy companies in Maryland reach as high as $17 a month. 

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