Buried inside a resolution introduced last week in the House of Representatives that seeks to codify that access to utilities, such as heat, water, and electricity are human rights is language that would ban the sale of uncollected household debt to collection agencies and filing “adverse” reports with credit reporting agencies, among other provisions.
The resolution, introduced by Rep. Cori Bush [D-Mo.] and Rep. Rashida Tlaib [D-Mich.] appears to be a response to a series of reports spotlighting how a utility company in Detroit sold portfolios of uncollected debts to a private equity company, which then filed lawsuits against those individuals and obtained wage garnishments for “thousands” of individuals.
A copy of the resolution, H. Res. 1364, can be accessed by clicking here. It states that access to utility services “should not be denied to any person based on ability to pay” while also calling for all utilities to be under “public control” and banning the privatization of water companies.
“A person should never be forced to choose between electricity or heat during the winter,” Rep. Bush said in a statement. “A person should never have their only option for water be water that is not properly sanitized. A person should never have to wait in a restaurant parking lot to get Wi-Fi to finish their homework or pay their bills. None of us should ever have to struggle to survive because we cannot afford these basic necessities.”
The Michigan Attorney General’s office said it is “more closely examining” the practice of DTE Energy selling its unpaid debts, according to a report.