The Office of the People's Counsel is an independent agency of the District of Columbia government. By law, it is the advocate for consumers of natural gas, electric and telephone services in the District. District of Columbia law designates the Office as a party to all utility-related proceedings before the Public Service Commission. The Office also represents the interests of District ratepayers before federal regulatory agencies. The Office is authorized to investigate the operation and valuation of utility companies independent of any pending proceeding.
The Office's mandate is to advocate the provision of quality utility service and equitable treatment at rates that are just, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory to assist individual consumers in disputes with utility companies about billing or services; and to provide technical assistance and consumer education to lay advocates and community groups.
Following the DC Council’s passage of the DC Water Consumer Protection Amendment Act of 2018 on December 18, 2018, the Office of the People’s Counsel’s area of advocacy was expanded. Effective April 11, 2019, OPC was authorized to directly assist DC Water ratepayers with service issues. This means OPC’s Water Services Division staff can independently begin an investigation of a water consumer’s complaint.
In addition, in defining its positions while advocating on matters pertaining to the operation of public utility or energy companies, the Office shall consider the public safety, the economy of the District of Columbia, the conservation of natural resources, and the preservation of the environmental quality, including effects on global climate change and the District’s public climate commitments.
History of the Office
Originally established by the United States Congress in 1926, the Office was eliminated by that body in a federal Executive Branch reorganization in 1952. Community concern in 1975 about rapidly rising electric rates resulted in the reestablishment of the Office by Congress through 88 Stat. 1975, Public Law 93-614. The Office became an independent agency of the District of Columbia government on January 2, 1975.