Bills issued for utility service that was previously unbilled because of meter diversion or tampering with the proper metering of the account may include a late payment charge when issued. The late payment charge may be applied from the estimated date that the diversion or tampering began.
A customer who receives a lump sum payment from an outside source to be used to pay his or her utility service bill may, at the utility's option, apply the payment to the customer's account in equal monthly installments.
If the billing period is longer or shorter than allowed in s. PSC 113.0405
, the bill shall be prorated on a daily basis unless other provision is made in the utility's filed rules.
If the utility is unable to gain access to read a standard residential meter at the end of each billing period, the utility shall, upon customer request, provide meter reading forms which allow the customer to send a card reading in time for billing. If actual readings cannot be obtained, the utility shall also leave a meter reading form at the premises for the customer to complete and return to the utility in time for bill preparation or leave a form at the premises explaining the estimation or leave a form at the premises explaining the estimation and how to avoid future estimations. This form shall be used when billing systems do not have sufficient time to allow the customer to return the card reading prior to billing.
If no form is left on the premises, or if the form is not returned in time to be processed in the billing cycle, a minimum or estimated bill may be rendered. In cases of emergency the utility may render minimum or estimated bills without reading meters or supplying meter reading forms to customers. Only in unusual cases or when approval is obtained from the customer may more than three consecutive estimated bills be rendered.
If meter reading is not scheduled on a monthly basis, the utility shall supply customers with meter reading forms for the periods when the meter is not scheduled to be read by the utility. Customers may not be required to provide these meter readings. If the customer informs the utility he or she does not desire to supply a reading, or if the form is not returned in time for the billing operation, a minimum or estimated bill may be rendered.
When an actual meter reading indicates that a previous estimated bill was abnormally high or low, the utility shall calculate the bill for the entire period as if use of service was uniformly distributed throughout the period. The previous estimated charge shall be deducted from the recomputed total. If there is evidence to indicate that actual use was not uniform throughout the period, the billing shall be adjusted according to available information.
Credits due a customer because of meter inaccuracies, errors in billing, or misapplication of rates shall be shown separately and identified.
The original billing rendered because of meter inaccuracy, or errors in billing, or misapplication of rates, shall be separated from the regular bill and the charges explained in detail.
Each bill for service shall be computed at the proper filed rate, which shall be the rate selected by the utility unless the customer selects a rate under par. (e)
When it is difficult to determine what rate should be applied until there has been actual usage, the rate classification shall be reviewed when there has been adequate usage to determine the lowest applicable rate but no later than the end of the first 12 months of usage. The customer shall be notified as soon as the lowest firm service rate option has been determined and be given the option to select a different applicable rate as set forth in par. (e)
. The rate determined by the utility to be the lowest firm rate option shall be effective with the billing following the date of notification by the utility unless the customer selects a rate. If the customer selects a rate, the rate shall be effective with the current billing period if required billing information is available but not later than the beginning of the second billing period following the customer's request.
A utility may enter into contracts with customers having terms longer than one year, but the rates paid under such contracts shall be the utility's lowest applicable firm service rate option, for which meter usage information is known, on file with the commission at the time of the contract, unless the customer selects another applicable rate at the time of the contract.
If the utility has information that the customer could qualify for a lower rate by changing voltage delivery, or combining or separating services as allowed under the utility's rules and regulations, he or she shall be notified; but no change in rates shall be made until the customer makes the necessary modifications. If such modifications are made, the utility shall change the customer's rate classification effective for the beginning of the current billing period if required billing information is available, but the change shall be effective no later than the beginning of the second billing period following the customer's request and notification has been made.
When a customer is eligible to take service under more than one rate schedule, the utility shall inform the customer at the times specified in par. (f)
of the option to select a rate, of the options and service classifications for which the customer may be eligible and the conditions necessary to qualify and of the firm service rate option that would have resulted in the lowest rate based on the previous 12 months' service and on the metered customer usage information known to the utility. The information provided shall include a general explanation of electric service usage characteristics to assist the customer in selecting the lowest rate consistent with the customer's anticipated usage and needs. If the customer requests a change in rate classification, it shall be effective at the beginning of the current billing period if required billing information is available, but such change shall be effective no later than the beginning of the second billing period following the customer's request.
At least once in each calendar year customers with more than one rate option shall be informed of the option to select a rate set forth in par. (e)
. The notification requirement may be satisfied through the use of a bill insert. The customer shall also be informed of the option to select a rate whenever there is a change in rates that would affect the customer and at any other time the customer so requests. If the utility notifies the customer of the option to select a rate as the result of a rate change or a customer request, such notification shall satisfy the requirement to notify the customer at least once in each calendar year.
Nothing in this section shall be construed as permitting a customer to select a service classification inconsistent with the utility's applicable tariff provisions or with contractual agreements between the utility and the customer.
Each utility shall offer a budget payment plan to all prospective and existing residential customers and to all commercial accounts for which the primary purpose of the service is to provide for residential living, subject to the following minimum requirements:
A budget payment plan tariff shall be on file with the public service commission, applicable only to charges for utility services under public service commission jurisdiction.
A budget payment plan may be established at any time of the year. The budget amount shall be calculated on the basis of the estimated consumption and estimated applicable rates through the end of the budget year. If the budget year is a fixed year, then prospective and existing customers requesting a budget payment plan after the start of the fixed year shall have their initial monthly budget amount determined on the basis of the number of months remaining in the current budget year.
An applicant for a budget plan shall be informed at the time of application that budget amounts shall be reviewed and changed every 6 months, if necessary, in order to reflect current circumstances. Adjustments to the budget amount shall be made with the objective that the customer's underbilled or overbilled balance at the end of the budget year shall be less than one month's budget amount.
Customers on the budget payment plan shall be notified of adjustments by means of a bill insert, a message printed on the bill itself, or both. The customer shall be adequately informed of the adjustment at the same time the bill containing the adjustment is rendered.
Customers who have arrearages shall be allowed to establish a budget payment plan by signing a deferred payment agreement for arrears, according to the provisions of s. PSC 113.0404
Budget payment plans shall be subject to the late payment charge provisions. In addition, if a budget payment is not paid, the customer shall be notified with the next billing that if proper payment is not received subsequent to this notification, the next regular billing may effectuate the removal of the customer from the budget plan and reflect the appropriate amount due.
At the end of a budget year, if an underbilled or overbilled balance exists in the account, the balance shall be handled as follows:
A customer's debit balance shall be paid in full or, at the customer's option, on a deferred basis.
A customer's credit balance shall be applied, at the customer's option, against the customer's account, credited in monthly installments to the customer's account over the course of the next budget year, or refunded to the customer.
An occupant shall apply for utility service. An occupant who uses utility service but does not apply for it may be billed an estimated or actual amount at a later date for service used prior to the time of application. The utility must have reasonable grounds to establish responsibility for the backbilling. Failure to pay charges resulting from this backbilling may result in disconnection of service. The utility shall inform the occupant of the right to dispute the billing through the dispute procedures set forth in s. PSC 113.0407
A utility shall pay interest on customer overpayments not refunded to the customer within 60 days of receipt by the utility if the net amount refunded exceeds $20 per refund and the overpayment was made to the utility due to:
Incorrect service or rate classification, provided the information furnished by the customer to the utility was not deficient, or the customer did not choose the rate as provided in s. PSC 113.0406 (4)
Billing based on a switched meter condition, where the customer was on the incorrect meter.
A utility is not required to pay interest to customer for overpayments made for:
Estimated bills, if the utility made a reasonable effort to obtain access. Reasonable efforts to gain access means that the utility has notified the customer after 3 consecutive estimated readings that the utility will read the meter at other than standard business hours at the customer's request.
Receipt of lump sum payments made from an outside source as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or other like programs.
The rate of interest to be paid shall be calculated in the same manner as provided for in s. PSC 113.0402 (9) (b)
. Interest shall be paid from the date when the customer overpayment occurred until the date when the overpayment is refunded. Interest will be calculated on the net amount overpaid in each calendar year.
Nothing in these rules shall prevent the commission or its staff from requiring the payment of interest on amounts returned to customers in those instances where the commission or its staff finds that such payment is necessary for a fair and equitable resolution of an individual complaint.
PSC 113.0406 History
Cr. Register, July, 2000, No. 535
, eff. 8-1-00; CR 13-048
: r. (7) Register July 2014 No. 703
, eff. 8-1-14.
Whenever the customer disputes the utility's request for a deposit or other guarantee, or advises the utility's designated office 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 the residential customer to enter into a deferred payment agreement under s. PSC 113.0404
when applicable in order to resolve the dispute.
When a utility designates an agent to handle disputes and inquiries and when the agent refuses or fails to adequately address the disputes and inquiries, upon complaint or other indicator of such refusal or failure, the dispute resolution responsibility required under this section reverts to the utility.
When utility payments are made electronically or through vendors, credit cards, or other third party and when these third parties have a contractual relationship with the utility, the dispute/inquiry resolution responsibility remains with the utility.
After the customer has pursued the available remedies with the utility, he or she may request that the public service commission staff informally review the disputed issue and recommend terms of settlement.
A customer's request for informal review may be made in any reasonable manner such as by written request or telephoned request directed to the public service commission. By telephone or written request the public service 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 concerns raised by the commission and its staff. Utilities shall promptly inform the commission of any changes in these designations. A utility shall respond to public service commission staff's request for an investigation by contacting 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, public service commission staff shall make an informal determination for settlement of the dispute and communicate that determination to both by telephone or mail. Either party to the dispute may request and receive the public service 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. Staff shall include any information or arguments that the customer believes the commission should consider.
There shall be at least 7 days between the date the public service 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 itself. To avoid disconnection pending a formal review, the customer must request a formal review by the commission, in writing, within 7 days of the issue of the informal determination. All other requests for formal review shall be made within 30 days of the date the commission staff telephones or mails written confirmation if the staff telephone notice is requested and mailed, the 30 day period begins from the date of that mailing.
Within 7 days of receiving a request for formal review in a dispute involving a pending disconnection of service, the commission shall make a determination whether to grant the request for formal review. The commission shall base its determination on the request for formal review and commission staff's informal complaint file. Within 35 days from the time that all other requests for formal review are made, commission staff shall provide the commission with a memorandum based on the information it has received from the utility and the customer. A copy of the commission staff memorandum shall be provided to the parties 15 days prior to consideration by the commission. Either party to the complaint may file a response to the commission staff's memorandum. These comments shall be filed with the commission 2 working days prior to the date scheduled for consideration by the commission. The commission shall inform both parties of its decision.
Either party to the complaint may request that the commission reconsider its formal determination under this section. Such requests shall comply with s. 227.49
, Stats. and must be received by the commission within 20 days of mailing of the commission's determination. A request for reconsideration shall include any additional information or arguments that the party believes were not considered in the original complaint. The commission may review and reaffirm its original decision, issue a new decision, or decide to hold hearing on the matter for the gathering of additional information.
If the commission decides to conduct formal hearing under sub. (5)
on the dispute, the commission may condition the terms of its granting a formal hearing. Failure to met these conditions before hearing shall constitute waiver of the dispute by the customer.
Any such hearing shall be held not less than 10 days following a notice of hearing and a decision thereon shall be rendered following the conclusion of the hearing.
Utility service shall not be disconnected or refused because of any disputed matter while the disputed matter is being pursued in accordance with the provisions of this section. The utility shall inform the customer that pursuing a disputed matter does not relieve the customer or the obligation of paying charges which are not in dispute, or prevent disconnection of service for nonpayment of undisputed charges.
PSC 113.0407 History
Cr. Register, July, 2000, No. 535
, eff. 8-1-00.
PSC 113.0408 Application for residential service. PSC 113.0408(1)(1)
For purposes of this section, “written" or “in writing" means legibly printed on paper or, with the intended recipient's permission, legibly printed in an electronic form that the recipient can electronically store and retrieve for future reference.
A utility may require a verbal or written application for residential service. The utility shall establish a written policy for when a written application is required. A utility may accept an application for service from a person other than the user or potential user of service.
Except as provided in par. (d)
and sub. (3)
, a utility may only require that an applicant provide the following information in an application:
Legal name and birthdate of the user of service and the person responsible for bill payment, if different than the user.
If the user of service has telephone service, the telephone number of the user of service. If the person responsible for bill payment is different than the user and the person responsible for bill payment has telephone service, the utility may also require the telephone number of the person responsible for bill payment. Lack of telephone service is not grounds for service refusal.
A utility shall accept any of the following items as adequate initial identification data, although it may accept other forms of identification:
If a utility requests the initial identification data under subd. 2.
, it shall inform the applicant of all acceptable forms of initial identification data and allow the applicant to choose which the applicant wishes to provide.
If a utility determines that an applicant's response under par. (c) 1. a.
indicates that additional information is necessary to further evaluate the applicant's credit history or identity, the utility may require the applicant's addresses for the past 6 years as part of its application for service. Each utility shall establish a written policy for requesting the application information under this paragraph.