Consumer Protections For Utility Customers
The act directs the public utilities commission (PUC) to exercise its existing authority to require information from regulated public utilities in the areas of:
- The number of utility customers who are exempted from tiered rates due to a medical condition or the use of medical equipment requiring higher amounts of electricity than other customers, and the efforts the public utilities are taking to ensure that customers entitled to the exemption are able to do so; and
- Disconnections and delinquencies, including the number of disconnections and a narrative analysis of any trends or inconsistencies revealed by the data.
The act also raises the income threshold for eligibility for a medical exemption from tiered electricity rates from 250% of the federal poverty level (FPL) to 400% of the FPL.
The act directs the PUC, on or before September 1, 2020, to open rulemaking proceedings to prescribe standard practices for disconnection due to nonpayment, including the provision of resources to support customers in multiple languages, as appropriate to the geographic areas served; standard terms for repayment plans to cure delinquencies; and a prohibition on remote disconnection without a reasonable attempt to make contact with the customer of record by telephone or engaging in a personal, physical visit to the premises.
For any change in a public utility's rate design approved on or after September 1, 2020, the act requires that the change of design be revenue-neutral and creates a presumption that a change of design that has a disproportionate impact on low-income residential customers compared to other residential customers is presumed to be contrary to the public interest.
The act appropriates $16,545 to the department of regulatory agencies for use by the PUC.
(Note: This summary applies to this bill as enacted.)