History: 1983 a. 53
Utility advertising practices. 196.595(1)(a)1.
Printed and published material and descriptive literature of a utility used in newspapers, magazines, radio and TV scripts, billboards and similar displays.
Any material which provides information favorable to a public utility on any issue about which the utility is attempting to influence legislative or administrative action by direct oral or written communication with any elective state official, agency official or legislative employee if the practice is regulated under subch. III of ch. 13
Descriptive literature and sales aids of all kinds issued by a utility for presentation to utility consumers and other members of the public, including but not limited to any material enclosed with or added to a utility billing statement, circulars, leaflets, booklets, depictions, illustrations and form letters.
Prepared sales talks to the public and public informational facilities.
Other materials and procedures enumerated by rule of the commission which promote or provide information to the public about a public utility.
"Expenditure" means any cost of advertising directly incurred by a utility and any cost of advertising incurred by contribution to parent or affiliated companies or to trade associations.
"Public utility" in this section means any public utility, as defined in s. 196.01
, engaged in the transmission, delivery or furnishing of natural gas by means of pipes or mains, heat, light or power. "Public utility" does not include any cooperative association organized under ch. 185
A public utility may not charge its ratepayers for any expenditure for advertising unless the advertising:
Produces a demonstrated, direct and substantial benefit for ratepayers. Advertising which produces a direct and substantial benefit for ratepayers is limited to advertising which:
Otherwise directly and substantially benefits ratepayers; or
The commission shall make rules to carry out the purposes of and to enforce this section.
Discrimination prohibited; penalty. 196.60(1)(a)
No public utility and no agent, as defined in s. 196.66 (3) (a)
, or officer of a public utility, directly or indirectly, may charge, demand, collect or receive from any person more or less compensation for any service rendered or to be rendered by it in or affecting or relating to the production, transmission, delivery or furnishing of heat, light, water, or power or for any service in connection therewith, than that prescribed in the published schedules or tariffs then in force, or established under this chapter, or than it charges, demands, collects or receives from any other person for a like contemporaneous service.
A public utility or an agent that violates par. (a)
shall be deemed guilty of unjust discrimination and shall forfeit not less than $100 nor more than $5,000 for each offense. An officer who violates par. (a)
shall be fined not less than $50 nor more than $2,500 for each offense.
If a public utility gives an unreasonable preference or advantage to any person or subjects any person to any unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage, the public utility shall be deemed guilty of unjust discrimination. A public utility violating this subsection shall forfeit not less than $50 nor more than $5,000 for each offense.
See also chs. PSC 113
, and 164
, Wis. adm. code.
Rebates, concessions and discriminations unlawful.
No person may knowingly solicit, accept or receive any rebate, concession or discrimination from a public utility for any service in or affecting or relating to the production, transmission, delivery or furnishing of heat, light, water or power within this state or for any connected service whereby the service is rendered or is to be rendered free or at a rate less than the rate named in the schedules and tariffs in force, or whereby any other service or advantage is received. Any person violating this section shall be fined not less than $50 nor more than $5,000 for each offense.
Telecommunications cooperatives with federal loans. 196.605(1)(1)
A public utility which is a cooperative association incorporated under ch. 185
to furnish telecommunications service in rural areas on a nonprofit basis with a telecommunications utility financed in part through a loan from the United States under the rural electrification act of 1936, 7 USC 901
, as amended, may require each of its local service telecommunications patrons to deposit with the association the amount of the membership fee or other form of capital representing the proportional share of the total equity capital of the association required as a condition of federal financing. The membership fee or other form of equity capital attributable to each local service patron may be collected by the association in installments in connection with billings for service. The required deposits of equity capital shall be segregated in the billing from service charges and shall be credited when received on the membership or equity capital account of the patron.
The amount of the membership fee or equity capital to be so required of each local service telecommunications patron under sub. (1)
may be based upon reasonable classifications of service and appropriate factors relating to the cost of rendition of the service. The amounts, classifications and manner of collecting the amounts shall be subject to the approval of the commission. The commission may promulgate rules under this subsection.
Facilities in exchange for compensation prohibited.
A public utility may not demand, charge, collect or receive from any person less compensation for any service rendered or to be rendered by the public utility in return for the furnishing by that person of any part of the facilities incident to the service. This section may not be construed to prohibit any public utility from renting any facility relating to the production, transmission, delivery or furnishing of heat, light, water, telecommunications service or power and from paying a reasonable rental for the facility. This section may not be construed to require any public utility to furnish any part of any appliance which is at the premises of any consumer, except meters and appliances for measurements of any product or service, unless the commission orders otherwise.
Discrimination by telecommunications utilities.
Except as provided in s. 196.63
, a telecommunications utility shall receive and transmit without discrimination messages from and for any person upon tender or payment of the usual or customary charges therefor, whenever requested to do so, without regard to the character of the messages to be transmitted unless a court of competent jurisdiction finds the messages to be in violation of s. 944.21 (3)
. Any telecommunications utility or agent, as defined in s. 196.66 (3) (a)
, neglecting or refusing to comply with any of the provisions of this section shall forfeit not less than $25 nor more than $5,000 for each day of such neglect or refusal. Any director or officer of a telecommunications utility neglecting or refusing to comply with any of the provisions of this section shall forfeit not less than $25 nor more than $2,500. Any employee of a telecommunications utility neglecting or refusing to comply with any of the provisions of this section shall forfeit not less than $25 nor more than $1,000. One-half of the forfeitures recovered under this section shall be paid to the person prosecuting under this section.
See also ch. PSC 165
, Wis. adm. code.
A private person cannot commence a forfeiture action under this section and thus forcibly join the state as a plaintiff. State v. Wisconsin Telephone Co. 91 Wis. 2d 702
, 284 N.W.2d 41
Telecommunications interruption in crisis situation. 196.63(1)(1)
If a sheriff, a police chief or a law enforcement officer designated by a sheriff or police chief to respond in a crisis situation has probable cause to believe that a person is holding a hostage or is resisting apprehension through the use or threatened use of force, the sheriff, police chief or law enforcement officer may order a telecommunications utility to interrupt or reroute telecommunications service to or from the suspected person for the duration of the crisis situation to prevent the person from communicating with anyone other than a person authorized by the sheriff, police chief or law enforcement officer.
(2) Utility immunity.
A telecommunications utility may not be held liable for any action it takes under sub. (1)
History: 1991 a. 294
Unbilled utility service.
All service supplied by a public utility must be billed within 2 years of such service. No customer shall be liable for unbilled service 2 years after the date of the service unless:
The utility made a reasonable effort to measure the service, but the customer did not allow the utility access to any device, including but not limited to a meter, necessary to measure service.
The customer obtained the service by fraud or deception, including but not limited to theft or tampering with any device, including but not limited to a meter, necessary to measure service.
The customer obtained the service by negligent interference by the customer or the customer's agent with equipment necessary to measure service and the interference causes service to go unmeasured.
See also s. PSC 113.0924
, Wis. adm. code.
Public utilities, liability for treble damages. 196.64(1)(1)
If a director, officer, employee or agent of a public utility, in the course of the discharge of his or her duties, willfully, wantonly or recklessly does, causes or permits to be done any matter, act or thing prohibited or declared to be unlawful under this chapter or ch. 197
, or willfully, wantonly or recklessly fails to do any act, matter or thing required to be done under this chapter, the public utility shall be liable to the person injured thereby in treble the amount of damages sustained in consequence of the violation. No recovery as in this section provided shall affect a recovery by the state of the penalty prescribed for such violation.
The burden of proof in an action under sub. (1)
rests with the person injured to prove the case by clear and convincing evidence.
A treble damage claim is no longer a separate cause of action because gross negligence is to be compared like all other negligence. Kania v. Chicago & North Western Railway Co. 57 Wis. 2d 761
, 204 N.W.2d 681
An award of treble damages does not require proof of willful, wanton, or reckless behavior. This provision is constitutional. Peissig v. Wisconsin Gas. Co. 155 Wis. 2d 686
, 456 N.W.2d 348
Principles of subrogation law prevent insurers from recovering treble damages. Beacon Bowl v. Wisconsin Electric Power Co. 176 Wis. 2d 740
, 501 N.W.2d 788
This section does not establish a cause of action separate from one sounding in negligence and does not apply to contract actions. Recycle Worlds Consulting Corp. v. Wisconsin Bell, 224 Wis. 2d 586
, 592 N.W.2d 637
(Ct. App. 1999), 98-0752
Customer liability for treble damages. 196.642(1)
In an action to collect the outstanding balance on a customer's account, a court may award a public utility furnishing gas or electricity 3 times the amount of that portion of the outstanding balance incurred after October 31 and before April 16 if all of the following conditions are met:
The customer's payment on any portion of the outstanding balance incurred after October 31 and before April 16 is 80 or more days past due.
The customer's quarterly household income exceeds 250% of the income poverty guidelines for the nonfarm population of the United States as prescribed by the federal office of management and budget under 42 USC 9902
(2) during a calendar year quarter in which any portion of the outstanding balance incurred after October 31 and before April 16 is billed.
The customer exhibited an ability to pay the portion of the outstanding balance incurred after October 31 and before April 16 when billed.
The public utility includes with the first billing statement for any portion of an outstanding balance incurred after October 31 and before April 16 a written notice informing the customer that a court may award the public utility 3 times the amount of that portion of the outstanding balance incurred after October 31 and before April 16 if the customer's payment on any portion of that amount is 80 or more days past due, the customer exhibited an ability to pay that amount and the customer's household income exceeds a threshold level.
The finder of fact shall consider all of the following factors to determine if a customer exhibited an ability to pay:
Customer's reasons for the outstanding balance.
Customer's household size, income and expenses.
The finder of fact may consider other relevant factors concerning a customer's circumstances to determine if a customer exhibited an ability to pay.
Nothing in this section prevents a public utility in an action to collect the outstanding balance on a customer's account from seeking damages other than damages that meet the conditions under sub. (1)
, but the treble damages provision applies only to damages that meet the conditions under sub. (1)
History: 1989 a. 40
Owner responsibility for service to rental dwelling unit. 196.643(1)(1)
When a customer terminates service to the customer's rental dwelling unit, a public utility shall make reasonable attempt to identify the party responsible for service to the rental dwelling unit after the customer's termination. If a responsible party cannot be identified, the public utility may give the owner written notice by regular or other mail of the public utility's intent to hold the owner responsible for service to the rental dwelling unit. The owner shall not be responsible for service if the public utility does not give the notice under this subsection or if, within 15 days after the date the notice is mailed, the owner notifies the public utility of the name of the party responsible for service to the rental dwelling unit or notifies the public utility that service to the rental dwelling unit should be terminated and affirms that service termination will not endanger human health or life or cause damage to property.
(2) Joint metering.
If gas, electric or water service is measured jointly for 2 or more rental dwelling units, the owner shall maintain the account for gas, electric or water service in the name of the owner or in the name of the agent responsible for the collection of rent and the management of the rental dwelling units.
History: 1989 a. 40
See also s. PSC 113.0802
, Wis. adm. code.
The commission, upon complaint or upon its own motion, may proceed to investigate and determine whether a public utility's rates should be changed by reason of a change in the cost of an energy, commodity or service resulting from a change in charges for the energy, commodity or service if:
The rates of the public utility are based on the cost of the energy, commodity or service furnished to the public utility which the public utility furnishes or distributes to its consumers; and
The charges for the energy, commodity and service are regulated by an authority of the federal government and the federal authority has prescribed the change in charges.
The commission may make a change in rates under sub. (1)
effective as of the effective date of the order of the federal authority prescribing the change in charges.
Notwithstanding ss. 196.60 (3)
, the commission may determine and require payment by the public utility to its consumers of any sums which the public utility received from the consumers subsequent to the effective date of its order under this section and which are in excess of the rates prescribed by the commission under this section.
History: 1983 a. 53
See also ch. PSC 110
, Wis. adm. code.
This section does not authorize the use of an excessive earnings test to determine whether a refund received by a utility when its wholesaler's rate was lowered is to be distributed or retained. Algoma, Eagle River, New Holstein, Stratford, Sturgeon Bay & Two Rivers v. PSC, 91 Wis. 2d 252
, 283 N.W.2d 261
(Ct. App. 1978).
Penalties relating to information and records. 196.65(1)(1)
An officer of a public utility shall be fined not less than $100 nor more than $2,500, or an agent, as defined in s. 196.66 (3) (a)
, shall be fined not less than $100 nor more than $5,000 or an employee of a public utility shall be fined not less than $100 nor more than $1,000 for each offense if the officer, agent or employee does any of the following:
Fails or refuses to fill out and return any questionnaire required under this chapter.