House kills bills to limit BGE unit Repair firms oppose appliances subsidiary

Regulation

March 28, 1996|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

For the third consecutive year, the House of Delegates has killed a series of bills intended to regulate and restrict the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s appliance sales and repair subsidiary.

The legislation was sponsored by Dels. Katherine Klausmeier, a Baltimore County Democrat, and Don Hughes, Republican from Wicomico County, on behalf of the Maryland Alliance For Fair Competition, a group of independent appliance repair businesses. The bills died in the House Environmental Matters Committee after a vote Tuesday afternoon.

Legislation in the state Senate is expected to meet a similar fate.

"We are very pleased that for the third straight year the legislature has defeated attempts by a small group of contractors to unfairly constrain the operations of BGE's Home Products & Services subsidiary," said Arthur J. Slusark, a BGE spokesman.

The five bills were aimed at curbing BGE's ability to offer appliance repair services to customers. The Maryland Alliance says the $8.3 billion utility unfairly uses its financial resources and customer lists to advertise and promote HP&S, an unregulated division that services appliances, operates 10 retail outlets and remodels kitchens and bathrooms.

BGE has repeatedly denied that it subsidizes or provides HP&S with any advantages.

Despite the latest House defeat, the alliance says it will continue the battle next year.

"People are beginning to understand the issues, and we're making headway," said Dean Landers, the alliance's legislative chairman and president of Landers Atlas Appliance Service in Baltimore. "BGE is a Goliath and we're a David, but we're learning how to fight in the political arena. We'll be back bigger and stronger next year."

Mr. Landers cited the endorsement of one of the bills by the state's Office of People's Counsel.

Pub Date: 3/28/96

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