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196.604 History History: 1983 a. 53 s. 84; 1989 a. 49; 1995 a. 409; 2011 a. 22.
196.605 196.605 Telecommunications cooperatives with federal loans.
196.605(1)(1) A public utility which is a cooperative association incorporated under ch. 185 or 193 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 to 950aaa-5, 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.
196.605(2) (2) 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.
196.605 History History: 1979 c. 110 s. 60 (11); 1983 a. 53; 1985 a. 297 s. 76; 1993 a. 496; 2005 a. 441.
196.61 196.61 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.
196.61 History History: 1983 a. 53; 1985 a. 297; 1993 a. 496.
196.625 196.625 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.
196.625 History History: 1985 a. 297; 1987 a. 416; 1989 a. 49; 1991 a. 294.
196.625 Cross-reference Cross-reference: See also ch. PSC 165, Wis. adm. code.
196.625 Annotation 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 (1979).
196.63 196.63 Telecommunications interruption in crisis situation.
196.63(1)(1) Interruption authority. 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.
196.63(2) (2)Utility immunity. A telecommunications utility may not be held liable for any action it takes under sub. (1).
196.63 History History: 1991 a. 294.
196.635 196.635 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:
196.635(1) (1) 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.
196.635(2) (2) 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.
196.635(3) (3) 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.
196.635 History History: 1977 c. 62; 1981 c. 179, 391; 1989 a. 40.
196.635 Cross-reference Cross-reference: See also s. PSC 113.0924, Wis. adm. code.
196.64 196.64 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.
196.64(2) (2) The burden of proof in an action under sub. (1) rests with the person injured to prove the case by clear and convincing evidence.
196.64 History History: 1981 c. 390; 1983 a. 53; 1991 a. 39.
196.64 Annotation 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 (1973).
196.64 Annotation 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 (1990).
196.64 Annotation 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 (1993).
196.64 Annotation 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.
196.642 196.642 Customer liability for treble damages.
196.642(1) (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:
196.642(1)(a) (a) 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.
196.642(1)(b) (b) 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.
196.642(1)(c) (c) The customer exhibited an ability to pay the portion of the outstanding balance incurred after October 31 and before April 16 when billed.
196.642(1)(d) (d) 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.
196.642(2) (2) The finder of fact shall consider all of the following factors to determine if a customer exhibited an ability to pay:
196.642(2)(a) (a) Size of the outstanding balance.
196.642(2)(b) (b) Customer's payment history.
196.642(2)(c) (c) Period of time the balance is past due.
196.642(2)(d) (d) Customer's reasons for the outstanding balance.
196.642(2)(e) (e) Customer's household size, income and expenses.
196.642(3) (3) The finder of fact may consider other relevant factors concerning a customer's circumstances to determine if a customer exhibited an ability to pay.
196.642(4) (4) 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).
196.642 History History: 1989 a. 40.
196.643 196.643 Owner responsibility for service to rental dwelling unit.
196.643(1)(1) Responsible party. 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.
196.643(2) (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.
196.643 History History: 1989 a. 40.
196.643 Cross-reference Cross-reference: See also s. PSC 113.0802, Wis. adm. code.
196.645 196.645 Rate changes.
196.645(1)(1) 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:
196.645(1)(a) (a) 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
196.645(1)(b) (b) 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.
196.645(2) (2) 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.
196.645(3) (3) Notwithstanding ss. 196.60 (3) and 196.604, 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.
196.645 History History: 1983 a. 53.
196.645 Cross-reference Cross-reference: See also ch. PSC 110, Wis. adm. code.
196.645 Annotation 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).
196.65 196.65 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:
196.65(1)(a) (a) Fails or refuses to fill out and return any questionnaire required under this chapter.
196.65(1)(b) (b) Fails or refuses to answer any question in any questionnaire required under this chapter.
196.65(1)(c) (c) Knowingly gives a false answer to any question in any questionnaire required under this chapter.
196.65(1)(d) (d) Evades the answer to any question in any questionnaire required under this chapter, if the answer is within his or her knowledge.
196.65(1)(e) (e) Upon proper demand, fails or refuses to exhibit to the commission or any commissioner or any person authorized to examine it any record of the public utility which is in the possession or under the control of the officer, agent or employee.
196.65(1)(f) (f) Fails to properly use and keep the system of accounting prescribed by the commission.
196.65(1)(g) (g) Refuses to do any act in connection with the system of accounting prescribed by the commission when so directed by the commission or its authorized representative.
196.65(2) (2) A penalty of not less than $500 nor more than $5,000 shall be recovered from the public utility for each offense under sub. (1) if the officer, agent or employee of the public utility acted in obedience to the direction, instruction or request of the public utility or any general officer of the public utility.
196.65(3) (3)
196.65(3)(a)(a) In this subsection, "agent" means an authorized person who acts on behalf of or at the direction of a telecommunications provider. "Agent" does not include a director, officer or employee of a telecommunications provider.
196.65(3)(b) (b) An officer of a telecommunications provider shall be fined not less than $100 nor more than $2,500, an agent of a telecommunications provider shall be fined not less than $100 nor more than $25,000 or an employee of a telecommunications provider 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:
196.65(3)(b)1. 1. Fails or refuses to fill out and return any questionnaire required under s. 196.25 (3).
196.65(3)(b)2. 2. Fails or refuses to answer any question in any questionnaire required under s. 196.25 (3).
196.65(3)(b)3. 3. Knowingly gives a false answer to any question in any questionnaire required under s. 196.25 (3).
196.65(3)(b)4. 4. Evades the answer to any question in any questionnaire required under s. 196.25 (3).
196.65(3)(b)5. 5. Upon proper demand, fails or refuses to exhibit to the commission, or any person authorized to examine records, any record of the telecommunications provider which is in the possession or under the control of the officer, agent or employee.
196.65(3)(c) (c) A telecommunications provider shall be fined not less than $500 nor more than $25,000 for each violation under par. (b) if the officer, agent or employee of the telecommunications provider acted under the direction or request of the telecommunications provider or any general officer of the telecommunications provider.
196.65(3)(d) (d) After notice and hearing, the commission may order a telecommunications utility to cease provision of interconnection or access services to a telecommunications provider who has violated par. (b).
196.66 196.66 General forfeiture provisions.
196.66(1) (1) General forfeiture; failure to obey. If any public utility violates this chapter or ch. 197 or fails or refuses to perform any duty enjoined upon it for which a penalty has not been provided, or fails, neglects or refuses to obey any lawful requirement or order of the commission or the governing body of a municipality or a sanitary commission or any judgment or decree of any court upon its application, for every violation, failure or refusal the public utility shall forfeit not less than $25 nor more than $5,000.
196.66(2) (2)Each day separate offense. Every day during which any public utility or any officer, agent, as defined in sub. (3) (a), or employee of a public utility fails to comply with any order or direction of the commission or to perform any duty enjoined by this chapter or ch. 197 shall constitute a separate and distinct violation under sub. (1). If the order is suspended, stayed or enjoined, this penalty shall not accrue.
196.66(3) (3)Considerations in setting forfeitures.
196.66(3)(a)(a) In this subsection, "agent" means an authorized person who acts on behalf of or at the direction of a public utility. "Agent" does not include a director, officer or employee of a public utility.
196.66(3)(b) (b) A court imposing a forfeiture on a public utility or an agent, director, officer or employee of a public utility under this chapter shall consider all of the following in determining the amount of the forfeiture:
196.66(3)(b)1. 1. The appropriateness of the forfeiture to the volume of business of the public utility.
196.66(3)(b)2. 2. The gravity of the violation.
196.66(3)(b)3. 3. Any good faith attempt to achieve compliance after the public utility, agent, director, officer or employee receives notice of the violation.
196.66(4) (4)Treble maximum forfeitures.
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2011-12 Wisconsin Statutes updated though 2013 Wis. Act 200 and all Supreme Court Orders entered before April 18, 2014. Published and certified under s. 35.18. Changes effective after April 18, 2014 are designated by NOTES. (Published 4-18-14)