Customers faced with a heat-related utility bill that they cannot pay in full will be protected under a state law that goes into effect on Friday. The Missouri Public Service Commission’s Cold Weather Rule prohibits the disconnection of heat-related service when the temperature is predicted to drop below 32 degrees during a 24 hour period. The regulation will remain in effect until March 31.
Press Release from the Public Service Commission
JEFFERSON CITY—The Missouri Public Service Commission’s Cold Weather Rule, designed to help customers with heat-related utility bills, begins on November 1, 2013. The rule will remain in effect through March 31, 2014. The Cold Weather Rule has been a part of the Commission’s rules and regulations since 1977.
The Cold Weather Rule applies to natural gas and electric utilities under PSC jurisdiction that provide heat-related service. Municipally operated systems, cooperatives and those that provide propane delivered by truck are not under PSC jurisdiction. The rule does not apply to them.
“The Cold Weather Rule contains a number of protections designed to help consumers keep the heat on during the winter,” said PSC Chairman Robert Kenney. “Consumers who have questions regarding the rule or who need additional information on the Cold Weather Rule are encouraged to contact our Consumer Services Unit at 800-392-4211.”
The Cold Weather Rule:
- Prohibits the disconnection of heat-related service when the temperature is predicted to drop below 32 degrees during the following 24 hour period.
- Provides more lenient payment terms permitting reconnection of service for natural gas and/or electric customers.
- Prohibits the disconnection of registered elderly and disabled customers who meet certain income guidelines who make a minimum payment.
- Allows a customer to register with the utility if:
- 65 years of age or older;
- Disabled to the extent that the customer has filed with the utility a form submitted by a medical physician attesting that your household must have natural gas or electric utility service provided in the home to maintain life or health; or
- The customer has obtained a formal award letter issued from the federal government of disability benefits.
- Allows customers to budget payments over 12 months.
- May allow customers to extend payment of pre-existing arrears beyond 12 months.
- Does not require a deposit if payment agreement is kept.
- Requires that customers be notified by mail 10 days before the date the utility intends to shut off service; that an attempt be made to contact the customer within 96 hours before the shut off; that an attempt be made to contact the customer right before the shut off; that notice is left at the home when service has been shut off.
- Requires the customer be notified of possible financial help in paying the utility bill.
- Allows for the reconnection of service for less than the full amount owed.
If a customer is faced with a heat-related utility bill that they can not pay in full, it is important that the customer:
1) Contact the utility company.
2) State an inability to pay the bill in full.
3) Provide income information either by month or annual income.
4) Make a minimum payment.
5) Enter into a payment agreement.
It is important to note that in order to receive some of the benefits of the Cold Weather Rule; a customer must sign-up (register) with their heat-related company.
For more information on the PSC’s Cold Weather Rule, please see the Commission’s website at www.psc.mo.gov or call the Commission’s Consumer Services hotline at 1-800-392-4211. Consumers can also receive Cold Weather Rule information from their local natural gas or electric company.