Itemized fees annoy customers, Maes contends

Dan Maes

It’s a question of business philosophy.

Evergreen businessman Dan Maes said his is to keep consumer complaints to a minimum.

In an interview with The Daily Sentinel about energy issues this week, the Evergreen businessman who is vying for the Republican nomination for Colorado governor said businesses shouldn’t itemize the things they include in their bills. Nor, he said, should public utilities.

Itemizing raises the ire of their customers, he said.

“It would be wiser for them just to build it into the cost of doing business rather than itemizing it as a separate fee,” Maes said. “As a businessman, that’s how I would do it. It’s the difference in business philosophy, it’s that simple. Some people roll things in, some people itemize them separately.

“If I itemize it separately, it’s an annoyance,” he added. “People say, ‘Why am I paying this additional fee?’ They’re aware of it, they’re informed of it, and it concerns them. If they roll it into the cost, nobody sees the extra cost, and they’re less likely to express an opinion one way or the other about it.”

Maes’ GOP opponent, Scott McInnis, said he couldn’t disagree more.

The former U.S. congressman from the 3rd Congressional District said consumers deserve to know what they’re paying for, particularly when it comes to government services and public utilities.

Doing anything different is tantamount to trying to fool them, he said.

“Itemization brings accountability. So, the suggestion that he makes, I can’t imagine there would be one ratepayer in the state of Colorado, not one, who would agree with Mr. Maes’ position,” McInnis said. “As governor, transparency has become more and more of an issue because there’s a general lack of trust. He’s wrong on this issue. He’s absolutely wrong.”

Maes said his business philosophy applies to public utilities, but McInnis said there’s a reason why state law requires them to itemize charges.

They are virtual monopolies, and as such they could charge whatever they liked were it not for state laws that regulate them, McInnis said.

“Government’s different from business,” McInnis said. “You have to be accountable to the people, and when you have a public utility that’s under a public utility commission, there’s a need for transparency. His comment shows a lack of knowledge, and it’s just so far off base.”

Maes said it isn’t a question of trying to fool consumers or keeping them in the dark about exactly what they’re financing.

Rather, it’s about keeping complaints to a minimum, said the former chief executive officer of a credit reporting business, Amaesing Credit Solutions.

“It’s not about ignorance. It’s about supplying the product or service with less dispute, with less contention,” Maes said. “As a businessman, if I itemize a separate fee, someone’s going to call in and complain about it. They’re going to ask about it. They’re going to say, “What’s this for?’ And then they’re going to feel nickeled and dimed.”

Maes said Xcel Energy and other power suppliers should pay to build their own transmissions lines just as natural gas producers should finance their own pipelines.

State law, however, allows public utilities to transfer those costs to users, and it requires them to itemize the cost on their bills.

That amount is considered a fee, but Maes called it a tax.

“Indirectly the consumer’s paying a tax,” he said. “I remember years ago, Xcel said, ‘Hey, how would you like to pay an extra $3 a month for wind power development?’ We chose to do that, then I realized, ‘What am I doing subsidizing Xcel?’ It’s a tax one way or the other.”


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