Ratepayer and Customer Rights Energy Regulatory Partnership Program Abuja, Nigeria July 14-18, 2008 Presented by Robert W. Kehres The MPSC’s activities are open to the public • • • • Open Meetings Act Freedom of Information Act Billing Rules for Residential Customers Billing Rules for Non-residential Customers • Rules of Practice and Procedure – Rule 207 statements – Interventions as a party Residential Billing Rules • • • • • • • • • • • Definitions Application for service Deposits and guarantees Meter reading Billing and payment standards Voluntary termination of service Utility procedures Shutoffs and service restorations Energy assistance and shutoff protections Disputes and hearings Commission appeal procedures Residential Billing Rules Highpoints • A person may apply for service at the utility’s office, in writing, by telephone, fax, internet, or other means of communications. • The utility may require positive identification, a deposit, payment of a delinquent account. Highpoints – Deposits • General rule – absent justification, the utility may not require a deposit from a customer • If a deposit is required, the utility is required to hold it in the customer’s m • Name and to pay interest on the deposit amount Deposits • Rule 8 – Prohibits deposits based on income, home ownership, residence location, race, color, creed, sex, age, national origin, marital status, familiar status, disability, and any status not mentioned in the rules. New Customer Deposits • • • • • • If the customer has a delinquent account Misrepresents identity or credit standing Fails to provide position identification Non-residential location History of unauthorized use Living with a person having a delinquent account • Bankruptcy within 6 years Previous Customer or Continued Service Deposits • • • • • Delinquent account Misrepresents identity or credit standing Fails to provide position identification History of unauthorized use Shutoff service for non-payment of an amount that is not in dispute • One or more bad checks • Living with a person having a delinquent account • Bankruptcy within 6 years Meter Reading Procedures • General Rule – Utilities shall provide residential customers with actual meter readings on a monthly basis • Estimated meter reading are appropriate under limited circumstances • Customers shall be given opportunity to read and report usage on their own • Utility must obtain at least one actual reading per year Meter accuracy • Inaccurate meters must be repaired or replaced • Meters that record outside expected range must be investigated • Utility may assess meter relocation charges under certain circumstances Billing and Payment Standards • General rule – monthly billings by mail • Different periods and payment methods may be agreed to (example – on-line billings) • Equal monthly billing a/k/a budget billing • Customer has 21 days to pay • Low-income customer may designate how payment is to be split among services Billing and Payment Standards • Utility may charge for: – Energy consumed – Late payment • Limited to not more than 2%, not compounded, of the portion of the bill, net of taxes, that is delinquent (but not applicable for WPP customers). Billing information • Beginning and ending meter readings and dates • Units of energy consumed this year and last • The energy rate, due date, total amount due • Any previous balance • Taxes Billing Errors • If a utility overcharges a customer, the overcharge plus interest at 7% must be returned to the customer • Three year limitation on repayments • Undercharges due to unauthorized use may be backbilled by Commissionapproved method. • Other undercharges are limited to one year. Voluntary Terminations • Customer needs to give 10 days notice to utility • Allow the utility access to the premises • Provide an address for the final billing • Utility needs to read the meter within 10 days • Schedule a time to read the meter if the utility does not have access to it Utility Procedures • Utilities must establish procedures for investigating complaint and inquiries • A utility must attempt to reach a customer within 2 business days after referral from the Commission and must report back to the Commission within 10 days • Utilities must have toll-free telephone service for customers’ use More Utility Procedures • Utilities must have trained staff to answer customer inquiries during business hours • Utility assistance must be available in languages other than English • Assistance must be available at all hours for shutoff of service and emergencies • Utilities must have pamphlets explaining customer rights and responsibilities summarizing • Utilities must provide customers with access to rates and tariffs Shutoff Procedures • Emergency shutoffs permitted at any time for reasons of health or safety or in the case of a state or national emergency • When possible, the utility must provide a notice at all affected premises Shutoffs for non-payment • • • • • • • • Delinquent accounts Failure to provide a deposit that is required Unauthorized service usage Failure to comply with the terms of a settlement agreement Refusal to arrange an inspection, meter reading, maintenance, repair, etc. Customer misidentifies self Safety violations Presence of person having a delinquent account Notice of Shutoff • Utility cannot shut off service for nonpayment without first giving notice to the customer • Notice must be delivered by first class mail or personal service at least 10 prior to date of shutoff • Notice must contain information about customer’s rights Time of Shutoff • Shutoff must take place between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm • Shutoff may not take place on a day, or a day immediately preceding a day, when the services of the utility to restore service are not available Manner of Shutoff • At least one day before shutting off service for non-payment, a utility must make not less than two attempts to contact the customer by telephone. If no phone contact is possible, the utility must use an alternative notification process • Immediately before shutoff, the company representative must identify himself and accept payment if proffered in lieu of shutting off the service Shutoff Procedures • Utility representative shall have a copy of the delinquent bill and must accept payment in any form tendered, except by check if the customer has given the utility a bad check in the previous 12 months • If the customer fails to respond or fails to pay, service may be shutoff, but utility must leave a notice of how to have the service restored in a conspicuous place Shutoffs Prohibited • A utility shall not shut off service for any of these reasons: – Non-payment of goods or services that are not regulated by the MPSC – Service at a different location – A different class of service – Certain landlord/tenant situations – Military service situations Restoration of Service • A utility shall restore shutoff service promptly when the cause of the shutoff has been cured or satisfactory credit arrangements have been made • The utility shall attempt to restore service on the day requested by the customer • Utility may assess a restoration fee.