A state-wide small business alliance called the MEP Coalition for Fair Competition has released a report entitled “Florida’s Failure to Regulate” which asserts that the state has failed to provide reasonable regulatory oversight and restrictions on the expansion of utility monopolies. This leaves consumers, rate payers, small businesses and local communities at risk while utilities leverage their monopoly status and use ratepayer funds to subsidize expansion into new unregulated industries, the group said in a statement.
“Over the past 20 years, many utilities across the U.S. have attempted to leverage their monopoly power, access to customer data and ratepayer funded infrastructure to subsidize easy entry into electrical, heating, air conditioning, plumbing and other industries,” the MEP Coalition says. “In response, many states have enacted laws to regulate so-called Utility Affiliate Transactions, preventing regulated utilities from using ratepayer funded resources to subsidize nonregulated subsidiaries. By contrast, Florida has yet to implement even the most basic regulatory protections.”
The MEP Coalition says in the statement that this is likely due to the massive political spending, lobbying and donations by the utilities. It says that Integrity Florida reported that Florida’s four largest energy companies contributed more than $43 million to state level candidates, political parties and political committees in the 2014 and
2016 election cycles.
The coalition’s review of 13 states chosen randomly illustrates the type of restrictions used across the country to prohibit misuse of ratepayer funds and prevent subsidization. These regulations address the sharing of customer data, joint marketing, sharing of personnel and corporate infrastructure and much more in order to shield ratepayers, local businesses and entire industries from insurmountable and unfair competition.
“This report demonstrates that Florida has fallen behind other states when it comes to regulating these utility monopolies,” said Skip Farinhas, president of the South Florida Air Conditioning Contractors Association which is a member of the coalition. “We can’t allow aggressive lobbying and political spending to prevent our elected officials from doing the right thing to protect consumers, ratepayers and small businesses.”