Provisions Affect Natural Gas PIPP+
The five-year rule review of the Credit and Disconnection Rules – 4901:1-17 and -18 – has been completed by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). These rules, as the name implies, involve the rules that determine deposits, the conditions that can lead to disconnection, and PIPP+.
Changes to the rules were minor. Ohio has very good consumer protection rules, and this rule review did not weaken any of them. Likewise, PIPP+ has been a success since implemented. Customer payment compliance is up to 70%. Customer arrearage credits continue to grow. OPAE did not recommend significant changes to the current regulations.
OHIO ADM.CODE 4901:1-17-04, DEPOSIT TO REESTABLISH CREDITWORTHINESS
Clarifies customer must be passed due two consecutive months before a deposit can be charged an existing customer.
OHIO ADM.CODE 4901:1-18-01, DEFINITIONS
Revises the definition of “former percentage of income payment plans customers” to be consistent with ODSA definition to simplify administration.
OHIO ADM.CODE 4901:1-18-02, GENERAL PROVISIONS
Clarify current requirements that customers must receive all notices by mail unless affirmative consent to electronic notices is granted to the utility, and customers can revoke permission at any time.
This change lays the groundwork for a legal challenge to substituting text messages and robocalls for the ‘last knock’ visit.
OHIO ADM.CODE 4901:1-18-05, EXTENDED PAYMENT PLANS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Clarifies that a utility must offer to extend a due date if a date can be agreed upon by the customer and utility, AND, must also offer to negotiate a payment plan. If a plan cannot be mutually agreed to, the utility must offer the plans included in Commission rules.
Duke was only offering to negotiate an extension of the due date, and was not notifying customers of the option to negotiate or enter into a standard payment plan. OPAE believes that accounted for a portion of the higher disconnection rate in Duke service territory.
Recognizes that customers should be referred to community action agencies “or other community-based nonprofit organization designated by the Ohio Development Services Agency.” Directed utilities to use ODSA’s website or toll-free number to connect customers with assistance providers. Two providers are not CAAs.
OHIO ADM.CODE 4901:1-18-06, DISCONNECTION PROCEDURES FOR ELECTRIC, GAS, AND NATURAL GAS UTILITIES
PUCO rejected staff recommendations to allow disconnections to occur until 3:30 for customers with remote reconnection capabilities and retained the 12:30 cutoff for all customers. (The Commission recognized that this change would provide a customer with less time to find the money needed to stave off disconnection and that the type of reconnection capability was irrelevant.)
PUCO denied utility proposal to automatically waive personal notice when a customer is served through a meter with remote reconnection capabilities. It did not repeal the two waivers it has granted to the rule. (Making the waiver automatic would not give us the opportunity to litigate the waiver based on each individual utility’s disconnection behavior. Retaining current language gives consumer advocates an opportunity to repeal waivers of the last knock rule.)
Retains requirement that utilities either accept payments at time of disconnection or provide another way to avoid disconnection by paying via telephone, online, or at a utility payment agent.
Retains current medical certification requirements; available three times per year, and no requirement that past due payments be made up before a medical certificate can be used to prevent disconnection.
Retains current rule that customers disconnected for less than 21 days can use a medical certificate to restore service.
OHIO ADM.CODE 4901:1-18-08, LANDLORD-TENANT PROVISIONS
Retains existing notice provisions in single and multifamily buildings when the landlord pays the utilities. (This provision protects against constructive evictions when landlords fail to pay utilities and the building is disconnected.)
OHIO ADM.CODE 4901:1-18-10, INSUFFICIENT REASONS FOR REFUSING SERVICE OR FOR DISCONNECTING SERVICE
Retains current rule which requires the utility to provide service to a customer even if the person who previously received service and was disconnected continues to live in the home.
OHIO ADM.CODE 4901:1-18-12, PERCENTAGE OF INCOME PAYMENT PLAN PROGRAM ELIGIBILITY FOR GAS UTILITY SERVICE
Eligibility is now based on prior thirty days of income to be consistent with electric PIPP rules.
Retains current provision that customers must reverify income every 12 months with a 60-day grace period.
Requires customers to make up missed PIPP payments to remain on or reenroll in the program. Eliminates requirement to make payment missed after the customer was dropped off PIPP.
Limits the number of months of missed PIPP payments which must be made up to re-enroll in the program to 24 months.
Eliminates the requirement that customers re-enrolling in PIPP pay PIPP amounts for the same months they were connected as a regular customer. This makes the gas rules consistent with the electric rules.
OHIO ADM.CODE 4901:1-18-12, PAYMENT REQUIREMENTS FOR PERCENTAGE OF INCOME PAYMENT PLAN CUSTOMERS
Reduces gas PIPP to 5% of income from 6%. (This is a reduction of $41/month for a family of 4 at 100% FPL.)
OHIO ADM.CODE 4901:1-18-15, GENERAL PERCENTAGE OF INCOME PAYMENT PLAN PROVISIONS
Limits the amount of missed past payments a customer must make up to re-enroll in PIPP to 24 months.
OHIO ADM.CODE 4901:1-18-16, GRADUATE PERCENTAGE OF INCOME PAYMENT PLAN PROGRAM
Permits Graduate PIPP customer to make the 12 payments needed to eliminate arrearages in 14 months rather than 12 straight months.