TITLE economic-regulation

Part II. Public Utility Commission of Texas

Chapter 23. Substantive Rules

Subchapter E. Customer Service and Protection

16 TAC §23.47

The Public Utility Commission of Texas (commission) adopts on an emergency basis new §23.47, relating to Disconnection During 1998 Heat Emergency. Section 23.47 prohibits the disconnection of electric service for residential customers during the heat emergency, requires utilities and owners of master-metered or submetered residential facilities to offer deferred payment plans to assist residential customers in managing their unusually high electric bills caused by the extreme heat, and requires utilities to provide notice of the rule to social service agencies within their service territories that provide low income energy assistance. This section is being adopted under Project Number 19697.

This section prohibits the disconnection of electric service for unpaid past due electric bills during the period August 12, 1998 through September 30, 1998. This section does not affect a customers' ability to arrange a deferred payment plan pursuant to §23.45(d) of this title (relating to Billing). Moreover, the commission encourages customers and electric utilities to continue to work together to develop mutually agreeable deferred payment plans pursuant to §23.45(d) to avoid delinquent bills.

This emergency adoption is necessary because disconnection of electric service during the extreme and persistent heat currently being experienced in Texas poses an imminent peril to the health of residential customers.

The new section shall be effective immediately upon filing with the secretary of state because of imminent peril to the public health.

The new section is adopted on an emergency basis under §§11.002, 14.001 and 14.002 of the Public Utility Regulatory Act (PURA), Texas Utilities Code Annotated (Vernon 1998). Section 11.002 states the purpose of the Public Utility Regulatory Act is to protect the public interest inherent in the rates and services of public utilities; §14.001 grants the commission the general power to regulate and supervise the business of each public utility within its jurisdiction and to do anything specifically designated or implied by PURA that is necessary and convenient to the exercise of that power and jurisdiction; and §14.002 provides the commission with the authority to adopt rules which are necessary and convenient to the exercise of its authority.

Cross Reference to Statute: Public Utility Regulatory Act §§11.002, 14.001 and 14.002.

§23.47.Disconnection During 1998 Heat Emergency.

(a)

Definition. For purposes of this section, the term "electric utility" shall include an entity defined as an electric utility in the Public Utility Regulatory Act (PURA) §31.002(1), owners of master-metered residential facilities, or owners of submetered residential facilities.

(b)

Disconnection prohibited. No electric utility may discontinue service to a residential customer, a master-metered residential facility, or a submetered residential facility during the period August 12, 1998 through September 30, 1998, for delinquent payment of utility service. Nor may an electric utility send disconnection notices, or perform other related collection activities except as otherwise provided in this section, to a residential customer, residential user of a master-metered residential facility, or residential user of a submetered residential facility during the period August 12, 1998 through September 30, 1998.

(1)

If notice of disconnection was provided prior to August 12, 1998, then an electric utility may disconnect service October 1, 1998 provided that the delinquent bill remains unpaid and the customer has not entered into a deferred payment plan.

(2)

If notice of disconnection was not provided prior to August 12, 1998, then an electric utility must provide notice of disconnection as required by §23.46 of this title (relating to Discontinuance of Service) and electric service may not be disconnected prior to October 10, 1998.

(c)

Deferred payment plan. An electric utility shall contact and offer a deferred payment plan for any delinquent bill of a residential customer rendered during the period August 12, 1998 through September 30, 1998. The information included in the deferred payment plan shall be provided in English and Spanish as necessary to adequately inform the customer of the provisions of the plan. The deferred payment plan shall provide that the delinquent amount may be paid in equal installments over a period of up to six billing cycles, at the customer's request. However, if the customer and electric utility agree, then the customer may enter into a level payment plan that recovers the delinquent amount, with other months' bills, over a 12-month period.

(1)

A deferred payment plan under this subsection may not include:

(A)

a late payment penalty for the delinquent balance as long as the installments are made on time;

(B)

interest on the delinquent balance; or

(C)

a deposit.

(2)

A residential customer may enter into a deferred payment plan pursuant to this subsection by visiting the electric utility's business office or by telephone. If the customer visits the electric utility's business office, the plan shall be reduced to writing at that time. If the agreement is made over the telephone, the electric utility shall send a copy of the plan to the customer. Immediately preceding the customers' signature, the plan shall state in boldface capitals of at least fourteen point type the following: IF YOU ARE NOT SATISFIED WITH THIS CONTRACT, OR IF AGREEMENT WAS MADE BY TELEPHONE AND YOU BELIEVE THIS CONTRACT DOES NOT REFLECT YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THAT AGREEMENT, CONTACT THE UTILITY IMMEDIATELY AND DO NOT SIGN THIS CONTRACT. IF YOU DO NOT CONTACT THE UTILITY, OR IF YOU SIGN THIS AGREEMENT, YOU GIVE UP YOUR RIGHT TO DISPUTE THE AMOUNT DUE UNDER THE AGREEMENT EXCEPT FOR THE UTILITY'S FAILURE OR REFUSAL TO COMPLY WITH THE TERMS OF THIS AGREEMENT. In addition, where the customer and utility representative or agent meet in person, the utility representative shall read the preceding statement to the customer. The utility shall also provide information to the customer in English and Spanish as necessary to make the preceding boldface language understandable to the customer. A copy of the signed plan shall be provided to the customer by the electric utility.

(3)

A deferred payment plan under this subsection shall include the following:

(A)

the term of the plan;

(B)

the total amount to be paid under the plan; and

(C)

the specific amount of each installment.

(4)

If a customer fails to fulfill the terms of a deferred payment plan pursuant to this subsection, the utility shall have the right to disconnect service subsequent to September 30, 1998. However, the utility may not disconnect service until a disconnect notice has been issued to the customer indicating the customer has not met the terms of the plan. Such notice and disconnection shall conform with the disconnection requirements of §23.46 of this title, or its successor.

(d)

Notice to social service agencies. For purposes of this subsection, an electric utility shall not include owners of master-metered or submetered residential facilities. An electric utility shall provide written notice of this section by August 17, 1998, to:

(1)

those social service agencies that distribute funds from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program within its certificated service area; and

(2)

any other social service agency of which the electric utility is aware that provides energy assistance to low income customers in its certificated service area.

Filed with the Office of the Secretary of State, on August 12, 1998.

TRD-9812802

Rhonda Dempsey

Rules Coordinator

Public Utility Commission of Texas

Effective date: August 12, 1998

Expiration date: December 10, 1998

For further information, please call: (512) 936-7308