On Sunday, October 27, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a Proclamation of a State of Emergency for the entire State of California in response to the state’s extreme fire weather conditions. The Governor’s Proclamation may trigger new consumer protection measures that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adopted in August of this year.

Providers that presently meet the requirements in the CPUC’s Decision (“D.”) 19-08-025, discussed here and below, should file initial advice letters by Tuesday, November 12, 2019.

Protections Vary by Provider Type 

In D.19-08-025, the CPUC established certain consumer protection requirements for facilities-based and non-facilities-based landline and wireless providers following emergency-declared disasters that disrupt or degrade these providers’ service, triggered when the Governor of California or the President of the United States declares a state of emergency.

In these circumstances, communications service providers must provide certain customer protections for at least 12 months, or for a period determined by the Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). The type of required customer protections varies between landline providers (waivers of certain fees, etc.) and wireless providers (temporary phones, Wi-Fi access, bill payment deferral, etc.).

Requirements for Advice Letters

D.19-08-025 requires that communications service providers to whom the customer protection requirements apply file a Tier 1 advice letter to the CPUC within 15 days of a declared state of emergency, notifying the CPUC of their implementation of the emergency customer protections. In this advice letter the provider must address the following:

  • The required relief measures that the provider will implement;
  • The required relief measures that do not apply because the provider either does not provide or does not charge for that service; and
  • Relief measures, if any, that the provider is offering in addition to the required measures.

The affected service provider must also file another Tier 1 advice letter at the default 12-month conclusion of the customer protection period or at the end of the disaster, as determined by Cal OES, detailing:

  • Mandated protections offered to the customers affected by the disaster;
  • Start and end periods of the customer protections;
  • Outreach efforts conducted, the customer impacts; and
  • Basic metrics of the protection measures.

The CPUC allows service providers to request a blanket exemption from the Tier 1 advice letter, filing via letter request annually, to the Director of the Communications Division if none of the adopted protections are applicable to its services or customers.