A description of DCA’s mission with links to key services
Who We Are & What We Do
The Division of Consumer Advocacy is a state agency established to protect and represent consumer interests before the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, and other local and federal agencies. These organizations have regulatory jurisdiction over public utility services, including power generation, telecommunications services, synthetic natural gas, water and wastewater, transportation, and other similar public utility services. The division assists and represents customers of utility services as a whole rather than a single customer or select group of people.
The Nature of Public Utilities
Public utilities do not typically face competition as most businesses do. As such, government serves as a substitute for competition by regulating how utility companies will set the rates it charges consumers. Because utilities tend to operate on a large scale it would be impractical for more than one company to provide this kind of service. For example, electric companies must use numerous large poles and thousands of feet of cables and wires to provide consumers with electrical power. Allowing more than one electric company to provide such necessary services on such a large scale would put a significant strain on resources and natural beauty.
Giving Consumers a Voice
The arm of government that regulates utility practices in Hawaii is the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which is administratively attached to the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Each time a utility company wants to increase rates or take some other kind of significant action, by law, they must seek permission to do so by filing an application with the PUC. The DCA reviews the application to determine whether the utility company’s request is reasonable and in the best interest of consumers and then makes its recommendations to the PUC. The DCA emphasizes keeping rates low while ensuring that the utility provides safe, reliable, and adequate service to consumers. Beyond this, DCA also plays an active role in promoting and advancing the state’s energy policies. At times the division also uses consultants with specialized expertise to assist with its work on behalf of consumers.
The DCA is led by an executive director and includes a modest staff comprised of attorneys, accountants, economists, engineers, an education specialist, analysts, and support staff.
The executive director and staff members attend public hearings held by the PUC to get input from the public. This helps them to better understand the consumer’s perspective on utility services and rates; something that is an integral part of the Division’s work. The public’s ability to comment is not limited to public hearings. We also encourage you to contact the DCA or the PUC with comments on any application or with your questions, concerns, or complaints related to utility services.