The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has issued the final credit and disconnection rules, which include rules covering the natural gas Percentage Income Payment Plan (PIPP). The Commission accepted several of OPAE’s recommendations, but refused to address concerns regarding the requirements to make-up missed PIPP payments before re-enrolling in the Program. Probably the biggest change is reducing the percentage payment from 6 percent to 5 percent.
The Ohio Development Services Agency has not yet issued final rules for electric PIPP.
Following is a summary of the changes in the rules as approved by the Commission. My editorial comments are in italics. It is unclear when the rules will be implemented because modifications to billing systems and OCEAN will be necessary.
1.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.
2. OHIO ADM.CODE 4901:1-18-01, DEFINITIONS ¶(K) – Revises the definition of “former percentage of income payment plans customers” to be consistent with ODSA definition to simplify administration.
3. OHIO ADM.CODE 4901:1-18-02, GENERAL PROVISIONS ¶(D) – 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. Paying a bill online does not constitute consent for electronic notices.
4. OHIO ADM.CODE 4901:1-18-05, EXTENDED PAYMENT PLANS AND RESPONSIBILITIES ¶(A) – Clarifies that a utility must offer to extend a due date if a date can agreed upon by the customer and utility, AND, must attempt to negotiate a payment plan if the customer proposes one. If a plan cannot be mutually agreed to, the utility must offer the plans included in Commission rules. (Feel free to propose a plan on behalf of your customer. The rules require the utility to respond to the proposal.)
¶(B) – 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.)
5. OHIO ADM.CODE 4901:1-18-06, DISCONNECTION PROCEDURES FOR ELECTRIC, GAS, AND NATURAL GAS UTILITIES.
¶(A)(1) – PUCO rejected staff recommendation 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.)
¶(A)(2) – PUCO denied a utility proposal to automatically waive personal notice when 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.)
¶(A)(4) – 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.
¶(C)(3)(e) – 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.
¶(C)(3)(f) – Retains current rule that customers disconnected for less than 21 days can use a medical certificate to restore service.
6. OHIO ADM.CODE 4901:1-18-07, RECONNECTION OF SERVICE – OPAE, and other consumer advocates, sought to limit reconnection fees for customers served with smart meters (Advanced Metering Infrastructure, or AMI). The Commission declined to address the issue. (A recent settlement filed by AEP would set the reconnection rate at ‘0’ for customers served with AMI.)
7. 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.)
8. OHIO ADM.CODE 4901:1-18-10, INSUFFICIENT REASONS FOR REFUSING SERVICE OR FOR DISCONNECTING SERVICE – Retains current rule which requires utility to provide service to a customer even if the person who previously received service and was disconnected continues to live in the home.
9. OHIO ADM.CODE 4901:1-18-12, PERCENTAGE OF INCOME PAYMENT PLAN PROGRAM ELIGIBILITY FOR GAS UTILITY SERVICE
¶(B) – Eligibility is now based on prior thirty days of income to be consistent with electric PIPP rules.
¶(D)(1) – Retains current provision that customers must reverify income every 12 months with a 60-day grace period.
¶(D)(2) – 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 leaves PIPP.
¶(D)(2)(b) – Limits the number of months of missed PIPP payments which must be made up to reenroll in the program to 24 months.
¶(D)(3) – 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.
10. OHIO ADM.CODE 4901:1-18-12, PAYMENT REQUIREMENTS FOR PERCENTAGE OF INCOME PAYMENT PLAN CUSTOMERS
¶(A) – Reduces gas PIPP to 5% of income from 6%. (This is a reduction of $41/month for a family of 4 at 100% FPL.)
11. OHIO ADM.CODE 4901:1-18-15, GENERAL PERCENTAGE OF INCOME PAYMENT PLAN PROVISIONS
¶(E) & ¶(F) – limits the amount of missed past payments a customer must make up to reenroll in PIPP to 24 months.
12. 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.