Several Queens lawmakers are lauding Governor Kath Hochul for signing into law a legislative package relating to consumer protection.
State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz collaborated on a bill mandating a consumer advocate have a voting seat on the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC).
“Too often, the Public Service Commission serves the industries it regulates rather than the public,” Gianaris said. “A consumer representative on the PSC will be a powerful step in the right direction.”
The PSC is currently comprised of five members and regulates telecommunications, electricity, steam, natural gas and water service delivery. Currently, there are no membership requirements. The Gianaris and Cruz legislation would mandate one member have expertise in utility consumer advocacy.
“With rising utility costs impacting millions of New Yorkers on fixed incomes and others struggling with low-wage jobs and unemployment, consumers need regulators who represent their interests, not the interests of their utility companies,” Cruz said. “This law will ensure there is a voice and vote for ratepayers at the table.”
All members of the PSC are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. Hochul signed the package of bills known as The Consumer Credit Fairness Act, which will protect consumers from abusive debt collection, as many practices relate to old debts being sued on, debt from credit card issuers being resold to other creditors, and minimal information being provided to debt purchasers.
By increasing transparency, minimizing gaps in state civil procedure laws, and preventing extreme actions such as wage garnishment and bank account freezing, consumers are given more time to act on burdensome debt collection practices. Another provision prohibits harassment from utility companies when negotiating a complaint or unpaid balance.
“When bad actors try and take advantage of consumers, New York will fight back,” Hochul said. “I’m proud to be signing legislation that will protect New Yorkers from unscrupulous practices by debt collectors and utility companies. These three new laws will make New York a better, fairer place for all consumers.”
State Senator Leroy Comrie was also pleased to see the governor enact The Consumer Credit Fairness Act.
“As our state continues to recover from the pandemic, protecting consumers remains a high priority for the Senate Majority Conference, and this package of legislation will do just that,” Comrie said. “My bill provides clarifying language for the Home Energy Fair Practices Act (HEFPA), ensuring that when New Yorkers are in the midst of negotiating payment arrangements or filing a complaint against an energy provider, they are not subject to harassment or abuse. I thank Governor Kathy Hochul for signing this bill into law, recognizing the need to strengthen statutes that protect residential utility consumers and hold municipal providers and energy service companies accountable to the public they are meant to serve.”