Rachelle Chong Comes Under Stinging Attack from Consumer Groups

by Frank D. Russo, California Progress Report

Senate Confirmation Required–Hearing Today Should Provide Fireworks

*Groups all charge she has spearheaded elimination of telecommunication
consumer protections, including rules preventing deceptive marketing,
price-gouging, unfair billing practices, early termination fees, and
confusing contracts.

*Implementation of recently passed AB 2987 may be at stake

At least five major consumer groups have sent highly critical letters
to the Senate Rules Committee and California State Senate President pro
Tem Don Perata against the confirmation of Rachelle Chong to a full
term on the state’s powerful Public Utilities Commission. The letters
detail the dismantling of protections for the average Californian that
Chong has actively sought in her short one year tenure on the PUC.

The Senate Committee is expected to take up Chong’s nomination
today after the close of the Senate’s first session of the year, likely
at 1:30 p.m..

The Public Utilities Commission is an outgrowth of the great
progressive reforms of Governor Hiram Johnson in 1911 when California
was literally being railroaded by oligopolies and our state’s
novelists–Frank Norris, Jack London, and Ambrose Bierce– found rich
materials for their works out of the abuses of the day.

Read the letters from the following longstanding statewide
organizations and you will wonder how in the world Democrats in control
of the state senate could allow Chong to serve any more time on this
important regulatory body. They charge Chong with being ideologically
opposed to regulation–a throwback to the 19th Century.

The letter from the Consumer Federation of California has this pointed passage:

Chong professes that consumers can force an oligopoly of
telecommunication giants to provide ever better services, lower prices
and stronger protections against abuse. In one recent proceeding,
Commissioner Chong stated "We have decided to not take a more
regulatory 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."

This venerable consumer group, as do the others, cite chapter
and verse the records of PUC proceedings to prove their points. They
paint a picture of this commissioner as being blinded by ideology and
not following longstanding procedures to obtain results that are
contrary to the facts and the record.

We will be tuning in to the California Channel this afternoon to watch this hearing.