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Flat wages, rising rates lower satisfaction in utilities, survey concludes

Customersatisfaction with electric and natural gas utilities declined for the thirdconsecutive year, according to a survey for the American Customer SatisfactionIndex.

"Utilitiescustomers are sensitive to two things: price and disruption," ACSI founderand Chairman Claes Fornell said in a statement May 11 releasing this year'ssurvey results. "Demand for energy is inelastic and nondiscretionary,meaning consumers have little choice but to pay regardless of price. Whileenergy prices have been stable and have not increased dramatically, wagesremain stagnant and monthly energy bills are a constant drain on disposableincome. Consumers expect the lights to turn on and the A/C to work when theyflip the switch. ACSI data suggests that consumers have reduced confidence inutilities' ability to respond and recover from outages."

Surveyresults are based on interviews with about 70,000 customers each year acrossmultiple industries. Along with utilities, the survey results released May 11cover satisfaction with the health care and consumer shipping sectors.

Satisfactionscores of industries and individual companies within industries are based on a0-to-100 scale. For natural gas utilities, satisfaction fell four pointscompared to the 2015 survey,to 75, while satisfaction with investor-owned electric utilities fell twopoints, to 72. Satisfaction scores for municipal and cooperative utilities fellas well.

Thesurvey looked at 26 individual companies, two added for the first time. The twohighest-ranking, as they were in the 2015 survey, are , which serves about3 million customers in eight states, and CenterPoint Energy Inc., which serves electric customersin the Houston area and natural gas customers in six states, though eachdropped five points from their scores the previous year.

Onlythree companies showed gains from the previous year, Consolidated Edison Inc., up three points; andPG&E Corp. andExelon Corp., up onepoint each. The company showing the largest decline in satisfaction wasFirstEnergy Corp.,down 10 points. The survey noted that the company's inOhio to obtain rate subsidies for certain coal and nuclear assets.