CA Orders Measures to Reduce Low-Income Customer Shut-Offs
March 29 -- The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on March 22 approved several measures to reduce the number of residential energy customer service disconnections, especially for low-income customers, in the service areas of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE).
The CPUC opened this proceeding in February 2010 to reduce the number of residential gas and electric service disconnections due to nonpayment by customers, with a goal to reexamine utility disconnection rules and practices to identify more effective ways for utilities to work with their customers.
The decision directed PG&E and SCE to:
- Ensure that their customer service representatives (CSRs) offer customers the option of enrollment in the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE), a low-income discount program, by telephone discussion with a CSR.
- Provide key information, including the fact that service is at risk and a way to follow up for additional information, in large print - for any written communication to customers concerning the risk of service disconnection.
- Provide all information concerning the risk of
disconnection in the customer's preferred format - for customers who have previously been identified as disabled and who have identified a
preferred form of communication.
- Ensure that
outgoing calls regarding the risk of disconnection are made by a live representative - for households identified as using non-standard forms of telecommunication.
- Inform any customer that owes an arrearage on a utility bill that puts the customer at risk for
disconnection that the customer has a right to arrange a bill payment plan extending for a
minimum of three months the period in which to repay the arrearage.
- Allow CSRs the discretion to extend the period in which to pay the arrearage from three
months up to 12 months.
- Provide that CARE and Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA) customers are not required
to pay additional reestablishment of credit deposits with a utility for either slow-payment/no-payment
of bills or following a disconnection.
- Provide that medical baseline customers, life support customers, and customers who certify
that they have a serious illness or condition that could become life threatening if service is
disconnected will not be disconnected without an in-person visit from a utility representative.
- Collect from customers a reestablishment of credit deposit following a disconnection based
on twice the average monthly bill, rather than twice the maximum monthly bill.
- Not collect credit deposits for late payment of bills.
For more information, the decision is available on CPUC's website.