Letter sent to the Senate Rules Committee by CARA opposing the nomination of Rachelle Chong to the CPUC.
December 26, 2006
Senator Don Perata, Chair
Senate Rules Committee
State Capitol, Room 400
Sacramento, CA 95814
Re: Opposition to Confirmation of Rachelle Chong to the California Public Utilities Commission
Dear Senator Perata:
I am writing on behalf of the California Alliance for Retired Americans to advise you of our opposition to the confirmation of Rachelle Chong for a term as a member of the California Public Utilities Commission. CARA is a statewide organization representing over 750,000 seniors and community groups. The decisions that Ms. Chong has made are antagonistic to the welfare of seniors’ consumer interests especially for those on fixed incomes and in need of safe, reliable utility services at reasonable rates, with protection against fraud. As a member of the CPUC, Ms. Chong’s anti-regulator ideology is fundamentally at odds with these CPUC’s duties.
We have other concerns about Commissioner Chong. The CPUC must consider consumer as well as business interests, but she has too often tipped the balance far against consumers:
As reported in both The LA Times (December 21, 2006) and Capitol Weekly (News December 21, 2006) Ms. Chong added language to a bill that allow “California’s major phone carriers to raise rates at will rather than first having to apply for commission approval.” And in August, just a few days before the commission was to adopt the final version of the 264-page plan, Ms. Chong that allowed AT&T to be free from consumer disclosure rules.
Ms. Chong rejected a call by consumer and community-based organizations to require carriers who market their products to limited-English customers to provide a contract in the same language used to sell the product.
In the face of testimony provided to CPUC regarding thousands of consumer complains against telecommunications carriers that had been gathered by Communities for Telecomm Rights, a coalition of over thirty community based groups representing limited-English speaking phone users, Ms. Chong stated, “We have decided to not take a more regulator approach that was better suited to monopoly days and instead to trust the carriers to do the right thing given the market will demand it.”¹ This comment is surprising given her admission at a CPUC hearing that the Commission had a backlog of 25,000 uninvestigated consumer complaints against telecommunications carriers.
There are other instances in which Commissioner Chong has indicated a flagrant disregard for the needs of consumers. In her eleven months of office, Ms. Chong has demonstrated a consistent disregard for consumer interests and an enmity towards a CPUC regulatory role.
Her words and actions have harmed countless seniors who need protection and education against fraud, deceptive marketing and other misconduct of utilities.
We urge you to oppose the confirmation of Commissioner Chong for a term on the Public Utilities Commission. Thank you for your attention.
Jacki Fox Ruby
California Alliance for Retired Americans
¹Remarks of Commissioner Chong at March 2006 Consumer Education Workshop, San Francisco