Delinquency in payment for service received by a previous account holder or customer at the premises to be served, if an account is transferred to a new account holder or customer and the previous account holder or customer continues to be an occupant of the dwelling unit to be served.
Failure to pay for an outstanding account balance with the utility owing at a previous address and for which there is no agreement or arrangement for payment and it is not in dispute but remains outstanding;
Refusal or failure to permit authorized utility personnel to read the meter at least once every 4 months where the utility bills monthly or bimonthly, or at least once every 9 months where the utility bills quarterly or less frequently than quarterly. The 4- or 9- month period begins with the date of the last meter reading;
Refusal or failure to permit authorized utility personnel access to the base meter;
Violation of the utility's rules pertaining to the use of service in a manner which interferes with the service of others or to the operation of nonstandard equipment, if the customer has first been notified and provided with reasonable opportunity to remedy the situation;
Failure to comply with Wisconsin statutes, commission rules, or commission orders pertaining to utility service;
Failure to pay costs or fees incurred by and awarded to the utility by a court of law, for pursuit of collection of bills, or failure to pay extraordinary collection charges as allowed and specified in the utility's tariffs filed with the commission;
Failure to comply with the utility's rules or if the customer uses a device that unreasonably interferes with communications or signal services used for reading meters;
Failure of an applicant for utility service to provide adequate verification of identity and residency, as provided in sub. (5) (a)
A utility may disconnect utility service without prior notice where a dangerous condition exists for as long as the condition exists. Upon disconnection, the utility shall provide a written explanation of the dangerous condition.
Service may be discontinued with a written 24-hour notice for nonpayment of a bill covering surreptitious use of water.
Any one of the items under subd. 1.
or any 2. of the items under subd. 2.
shall constitute adequate verification of identity and residency, although a utility may accept other forms of verification:
Social security card, birth or baptismal certificate, or letter of identification from a social service agency or employer.
An applicant denied or refused service because of this subsection shall be informed in writing of the opportunity to dispute the matter through the commission, and shall be provided with the address and telephone number of the commission.
A public utility may disconnect residential utility service, without notice, where it has reasonable evidence that utility service is being obtained by potentially unsafe devices or potentially unsafe methods that stop or interfere with the proper metering of the utility service.
Account arrears incurred by an owner or property manager for rental residential dwelling units may be transferred, without regard to class of service, to the home or office account of the owner or property manager.
The utility shall send written notice of the planned transfer of the account arrears to the owner or property manager prior to making the transfer.
If the transferred account arrears remain unpaid, the utility may disconnect the owner's or property manager's residence or office service, provided that the utility complies with the disconnection provisions of s. PSC 185.37
Utility service may not be disconnected or refused for any of the following reasons:
Nonpayment of a delinquent account over 6 months old where collection efforts have not been made within that period of time unless the passage of additional time results from other provisions of this chapter or from good faith negotiations or arrangements made with the customer;
Failure to pay for a different type or class of utility service, except as provided by sub. (7) (c)
Failure to pay the account of another customer as guarantor of that account;
Failure to pay charges arising from any underbilling occurring more than one year prior to the current billing;
Failure to pay an estimated bill other than a bill rendered pursuant to an approved billing tariff or the customer upon request refuses to permit the reading of the meter during normal business hours;
For the intentional removal or eviction of a tenant from rental property;
The utility may not disconnect service in affected counties when a heat advisory, heat warning, or heat emergency issued by the national weather service is in effect. A utility shall make reasonable attempts to reconnect service to an occupied dwelling that has been disconnected when an occupant states that there is a potential threat to health or life that results from the combination of the heat and loss of service. The utility may require that an occupant produce a licensed physician's statement or notice from a public health, social services, or law enforcement official which identifies the medical emergency for the occupant. Upon expiration of the heat advisory, heat warning, or heat emergency, the utility may disconnect service to a property that was reconnected during this period without further notice if an appropriate payment arrangement has not been established.
If the utility is provided notice that there are extenuating circumstances, such as infirmities of aging, developmental, mental or physical disabilities, the use of life support systems, or like infirmities incurred at any age, or the frailties associated with being very young, the utility shall take these circumstances into consideration and ensure compliance with s. PSC 185.37 (10)
prior to disconnecting service.
Residential water utility service to an occupied dwelling may not be disconnected during the period November 1 to April 15 if the water service is a necessary part of a dwelling's heating system.
Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, a utility may not disconnect service or refuse to reconnect service to a residential customer if disconnection shall aggravate an existing medical or protective services emergency of the occupant, a member of the customer's family or other permanent resident of the premises where service is rendered and if the customer conforms to the procedures described in par. (b)
A utility shall postpone the disconnection of service, or reconnect the service if disconnected, for 21 days to enable the occupant to arrange for payment, if the occupant produces a licensed Wisconsin physician's statement or notice from a public health, social services, or law enforcement official which identifies the medical or protective services emergency and specifies the period of time during which disconnection shall aggravate the circumstances. The postponement may be extended by renewal of the statement or notice. During this 21 days of service, the utility and occupant shall work together to develop resources and make reasonable payment arrangements in order to continue the service on a permanent basis. Further postponements may be granted if there is evidence of reasonable communication between the utility and occupant in attempting to make arrangements for payment.
During the period service is continued under the provisions of this subsection, the customer shall be responsible for the cost of residential utility service. However, no action to disconnect that service shall be undertaken until expiration of the period of continued service. Any customer who is in this continued service category shall be admitted into appropriate and special payment plan programs the utility may offer.
If there is a dispute concerning an alleged existent medical emergency, either party shall have the right to an informal review by the commission staff. Pending a decision after informal review, residential utility service shall be continued, provided that the occupant has submitted a statement or notice as set forth in par. (b)
A utility shall not disconnect service unless written notice by first class mail is sent to the customer or personally served upon a responsible party at least 10 calendar days prior to the first date of the proposed disconnection except as provided in subs. (3)
, and (7)
. If the billing address is different from the service address, notice shall be posted at each individual dwelling unit of the service address not less than 5 days before disconnection. If access is not possible, this notice shall be posted, at a minimum, to all entrances to the building and in the lobby. The notice shall contain: 1) the date of the notice; 2) the proposed date of disconnection; and 3) that, if feasible, the occupants may apply to the utility to accept responsibility for future bills and avoid disconnection of service. Refusal or acceptance of the application for service is subject to those conditions set out in this chapter. If disconnection is not accomplished on or before the 20th day after the first notice date, a subsequent notice shall be left on the premises not less than 24 hours nor more than 48 hours prior to the disconnection unless the customer and the utility agree to extend the 20-day time period.
The utility shall make a reasonable effort to have a personal or telephone contact with the residential customer prior to disconnection. If a contact is made, the utility shall review the reasons for the pending disconnection of service, and explain what actions shall be taken to avoid disconnection.
The utility shall keep a record of these contacts and contact attempts.
When a residential customer, either directly or through the commission, disputes a disconnection notice under s. PSC 185.37
, the utility shall investigate any disputed issue and shall attempt to resolve that issue. During this investigation, utility service shall not be disconnected over this matter.
If a disputed issue cannot be resolved, the utility shall inform the customer of the right to appeal to the commission.
Disconnection notice shall be given on a form approved by the commission, and shall contain the following information:
The name and address of the customer and the address of the service, if different;
A statement of the reason for the proposed disconnection of service and that disconnection shall occur if the account is not paid, or if arrangement is not made to pay the account under deferred payment agreement, or if other suitable arrangements are not made, or if equipment changes are not made. If disconnection of service is to be made for default on a deferred payment agreement, the notice shall include an explanation of the acts of the customer which are considered to constitute default;
A statement that the customer shall communicate immediately upon receipt of the notice with the utility's designated office, listing a telephone number, if the customer disputes the notice of delinquent account, if the customer wishes to negotiate a deferred payment agreement as an alternative to disconnection, if any resident is seriously ill, or if there are other extenuating circumstances, as the presence of infants or young children in the household, the presence of aged, or persons with disabilities in the household, the presence of residents who use life support systems or equipment or residents who have mental retardation or other developmental or mental disabilities;
A statement that residential utility service shall be continued for up to 21 days during serious illness if the account holder submits a statement or notice pursuant to sub. (10)
A statement that the customer may appeal to the commission staff in the event that the grounds for the proposed disconnection or the amount of any disagreement remains in dispute after the customer has pursued the available remedies with the utility.
Service shall not be disconnected on a day, or on a day immediately preceding a day, when the business offices of the utility are not available to the public for the purpose of transacting all business matters unless the utility provides personnel which are readily available to the customer 24 hours per day to evaluate, negotiate, or otherwise consider the customer's objection to the disconnection as provided under s. PSC 185.39
, and proper service personnel are readily available to restore service 24 hours per day.
Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, utility service may not be refused because of a delinquent account if the customer or applicant provides, as a condition of future service a deposit or guarantee, as governed by s. PSC 185.36
, or a voucher agreement. If the guarantor has agreed to be responsible for payment of all future bills, the customer shall be notified of the billing arrangement and of the ability to reject the proposed arrangement.
PSC 185.37 History
Cr. Register, January, 1997, No. 493
, eff. 2-1-97; CR 01-033
: am. (1) (b), (2) (e) and (L), (8) (h), (9) and (11) (a), cr. (1m), (2) (am) and (8m), Register October 2001 No. 550
, eff. 11-1-01.
A utility is required to offer deferred payment agreements to residential accounts and encouraged to offer such agreements to other customers.
Every deferred payment agreement entered into due to the customer's inability to pay the outstanding bill in full shall provide that service shall not be discontinued if the customer pays a reasonable amount of the outstanding bill, agrees to pay the remaining outstanding balance in installments, and agrees to pay the current bill by the due date.
For purposes of determining reasonableness in sub. (2)
, the parties shall consider the customer's ability to pay, including the following factors:
Any other relevant factors concerning the circumstances of the customer such as household size, income, and necessary expenses.
A deferred payment agreement offered by a utility shall state immediately preceding the space provided for the customer's signature and in bold face print at least 2 sizes larger than any other print used, that:
You have the right to suggest a different payment agreement;
If you believe the terms of this agreement are unreasonable, DO NOT SIGN IT;
If you and the utility cannot agree on terms, you may ask the commission to review the disputed issues;
If you sign this agreement, you agree that you owe the amount due under the agreement;
Signing this agreement does not affect your responsibility to pay for your current service. Allowing any bill for current service to become delinquent places you in default of this agreement.
A utility that does not require a written deferred payment agreement shall communicate to the customer all points listed in sub. (4)
except those pertaining to a signature when making the arrangement with the customer. A utility shall send written confirmation of a deferred payment agreement upon customer request. The commission may require a utility to use written deferred payment agreements if it has evidence that the terms of the agreements are not being effectively communicated to customers.
A delinquent amount, including late payment charges covered by a deferred payment agreement, shall not be subject to an additional late payment charge if the customer meets the payment schedule, including the current bill required by the agreement. A deferred payment agreement shall not include a finance charge.
If an applicant for utility service or current customer has not fulfilled terms of a deferred payment agreement and there has not been a significant change in the customer's ability to pay since the agreement was negotiated, the utility shall have the right to disconnect pursuant to disconnection of service rules (s. PSC 185.37
) and under such circumstances, it shall not be required to offer subsequent negotiation of a deferred payment agreement prior to disconnection.
Any payments made by a customer solely in compliance with a deferred payment agreement, and not as part of a payment for other utility services, shall first be considered as payment toward the deferred payment agreement with any remainder credited to the current bill. Payments made to satisfy a current bill for utility service, which may include a portion for a deferred payment agreement, shall be credited as set forth in s. PSC 185.33 (4)
If a deferred payment agreement cannot be reached because the customer's offer is unacceptable to the utility, the utility shall inform the customer in writing why the customer's offer was not acceptable.
PSC 185.38 History
Cr. Register, January, 1997, No. 493
, eff. 2-1-97; CR 01-033
: cr. (4m), Register October 2001 No. 550
, eff. 11-1-01.
Whenever the customer disputes the utility's request for a deposit or other guarantee, or advises the utility's designated office prior to the disconnection of service that all or any part of any billing as rendered is in dispute, or that any matter related to the disconnection or refusal of service is in dispute, the utility shall:
Provide the opportunity for residential customers, nonresidential customers at utility discretion, per s. PSC 185.38 (1)
to enter into a deferred payment agreement when reasonable in order to resolve the dispute.
After the customer has pursued the available remedies with the utility, the customer may request that the commission staff informally review the disputed issue and recommend terms of settlement.
A request for informal review may be made in any reasonable manner such as by written or telephone request directed to the commission. Either by telephone or written request, the commission staff may request the utility to investigate the dispute.
The utility shall designate employees for responding to commission complaints who are readily available and have an appropriate and sufficient authority level for investigating and resolving concerns raised by the commission and its staff. Utilities shall provide the names of the designated employees to the commission and shall promptly inform the commission of any changes in these designations. A utility shall respond to the public service commission staff's request for an investigation by attempting to contact the complainant within 48 hours for most circumstances, or 4 hours in an emergency situation, and by providing a response to the commission within 10 business days. Staff may extend this time period if the utility requests more time to complete its investigation. Based on information provided by the utility and the customer, the commission staff shall make an informal determination for settlement of the dispute and communicate that determination to both parties. Either party to the dispute may request and receive the commission staff determination, and the basis for it, in writing. Commission staff shall inform any customer disputing an informal determination of the right to pursue a formal review.
There shall be at least 7 calendar days between the date the commission staff telephones or mails written notice of terms of settlement after informal review and any subsequent disconnection.
After informal review, any party to the dispute may make a written request for a formal review by the commission. To avoid disconnection pending a formal review, the customer shall request a formal review by the commission, in writing, within 7 calendar days of the issue of the informal determination. All other requests for formal review shall be made within 30 calendar days of the date the commission staff telephones or provides written notice of terms of the settlement after informal review. If written confirmation is requested, the 30-day period begins from the date of that mailing.