Campbell seeks information on repair services offered by local utilities

Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell has asked the LPSC to investigate the HomeServe home-warranty program promoted to thousands of SWEPCO and CenterPoint Energy customers as insurance against failure of customer-owned electric and gas equipment.

The monopoly SWEPCO electric and CenterPoint natural-gas utilities serving much of North Louisiana began marketing HomeServe warranty service to their customers earlier this year.

“We owe it to the people we serve to look at this,” Campbell said during the LPSC’s monthly meeting, held Wednesday by teleconference because of the Coronavirus.

“I think SWEPCO and CenterPoint should be in the utility business, not the insurance business.”

In his argument Campbell cited a 1991 LPSC order prohibiting utilities from “directly engaging in the sale, installation or service of any type of residential equipment or appliance.” He said the Louisiana utilities appear to be using Connecticut-based HomeServe to skirt the order by employing HomeServe to shield the companies from direct involvement in activities prohibited by the Commission order.

Campbell said he has received complaints from Louisiana contractors concerned that HomeServe would hire low-bid, unqualified electricians and plumbers to do repair service on SWEPCO and CenterPoint customer homes. He also cited marketing materials from HomeServe using SWEPCO and CenterPoint logos and carrying messages that could be misunderstood by consumers.

“If you get a letter from your utility you don’t throw it away,” Campbell said, “especially if it carries messages like ‘Important Information Enclosed’ and quotes deadlines to sign up.”

Campbell asked LPSC staff to conduct a thorough review of the HomeServe offerings and report back to members of the Commission at their February 2021 meeting.