The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio recently completed a review of its rules, required every five years, contained in Ohio Adm. Code Chapters 4901:1-17 and 4901:1-18. After reviewing comments filed by interested stakeholders, the Commission made its revisions and issued the final rules* regarding the establishment of credit for utility services, the disconnection of gas, natural gas, or election service to residential customers, and the percentage of income payment plan (PIPP) program for gas and natural gas residential customers on June 4, 2014.
There were no major changes to the rules, but the Commission did some fine-tuning of the credit and collection rules for utility companies. A brief summary of the changes are outlined below.
OAC Chapter 4901:1-17. Establishment of Credit for Residential Service
- Provisions addressing credit for residential services now apply to electric utilities (gas, natural gas, waterworks, and sewage disposal were already included).
- Changes to a customer's use of a creditworthy guarantor in order to establish financial responsibility.
- Records of cash deposits must now be maintained for at least one yearafter the deposit is refunded or otherwise disposed of in accordance with applicable law.
OAC Chapter 4901:1-18. Termination of Residential Service
- Adds property owner and landlord to the list of individuals whose specified actions may warrant the disconnection of service.
- Modifies provisions regarding a utility company's response to inquiries from the Commission regarding disconnection of services.
- Shortens length of interruption in service requiring notice from utility companies.
- Amendments to the provisions governing medical certification.
- New provisions applicable when a utility company cannot gain access to disconnect service after receiving a request for disconnection from the customer of record.
- New provisions addressing cases of tampering and unauthorized reconnection of services.
- New provisions setting forth the applicable requirements if a utility company chooses to adopt a reversion agreement. Note that utility companies are not required to adopt one.
Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) Plus Program
- Note: The rules regarding Ohio's PIPP program are contained in both the Commission's rules for gas utilities (Ohio Adm. Code Chapter 4901:1-18) and in the Ohio Development Services Agency's (ODSA) rules for electric utilities (Ohio Adm. Code Chapter 122:5-3). The staffs of the two agencies coordinated any revisions to ensure clear and consistent rules for both gas and electric utilities.
- Throughout these chapters, "percentage of income payment plan" and "PIPP" have been renamed "percentage of income payment plan plus" and "PIPP plus."
- Definition of "arrearages" has been clarified as equal to a customer's accrued charges at time of enrollment plus charges accumulated while enrolled in PIPP plus, but does not include current or past due monthly PIPP plus payments.
- Clarifies the definitions and eligibility requirements for PIPP plus.
- Adopts ODSA's more liberal definition of "on-time payments." Allows customers to receive incentive credits to reduce outstanding arrearages for payments received prior to the date the utility company issues the next bill, rather than payments received by the due date stated on the bills.
- Clarifies reasons for disqualification from the PIPP plus program and requirements for reenrollment.
- Clarifies how overpayments and money provided by a public or private entities is to be applied.
- Requires that the utility company offer, on the final bill, a payment agreement for PIPP plus customers with arrearages who are closing their utility account for specified reasons.
* The final rules have not yet been filed with the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) which is a prerequisite to becoming effective. It is not anticipated that JCARR will reject or modify these final rules. The filing with JCARR must take place at least 65 days prior to the date that the rule is filed with the Ohio Secretary of State and the Legislative Services Commission, and becomes effective on the tenth day following such filing.