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PA Bulletin, Doc. No. 98-1097




[52 PA. CODE CH. 54]

[28 Pa.B. 3283]


Reporting Requirements for Quality of Service Benchmarks and Standards

   The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (Commission) on April 23, 1998, adopted a final rulemaking to establish uniform measurements and reporting requirements to allow the Commission to monitor the level of the electric distribution companies' (EDC) customer service performance. The contact persons are Stephen Gorka, Law Bureau, (717) 772-8840 and Mary Frymoyer, Bureau of Consumer Services, (717) 783-1628.

Executive Summary

   On December 3, 1996, Governor Tom Ridge signed into law 66 Pa.C.S. §§ 2801--2812 (relating to Electricity Generation Customer Choice and Competition Act) (act). Section 2807(d) of the act (relating to duties of electric distribution companies) is clear in its intent that utilities are to maintain, at a minimum, the current levels of reliability and customer service to their customers as they move toward competition. The purpose of these regulations is to establish uniform measurements and reporting requirements to allow the Commission to monitor the level of the EDCs' customer service performance. After the Commission has received and analyzed an adequate supply of data from the proposed uniform measurements, it will develop quality of service benchmarks and standards which will be the subject of a future rulemaking.

Regulatory Review

   Under section 5(a) of the Regulatory Review Act (71 P. S. § 745.5(a)), on January 16, 1998, the Commission submitted a copy of the final rulemaking, which was published as proposed at 28 Pa.B. 514 (January 31, 1998) to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) and the Chairpersons of House Committee on Consumer Affairs and the Senate Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure for review and comment. Under section 5(c) of the Regulatory Review Act, the Commission also provided IRRC the Committees with copies of all comments received, as well as other documentation.

   In preparing these final-form regulations, the Commission has considered all comments received from IRRC, the Committes and the public.

   Under section 5.1(d) of the Regulatory Review Act (71 P. S. § 745.5a(d)), these final-form regulations were deemed approved by the House and Senate Committees on June 8, 1998, and were approved by IRRC on June 18, 1998, in accordance with section 5.1(e) of the Regulatory Review Act.

Public Meeting held
April 23, 1998

Commissioners Present: John M. Quain, Chairperson; Robert K. Bloom, Vice-Chairperson; John Hanger; David W. Rolka; and Nora Mead Brownell

Final Rulemaking Order

By the Commission:

   At public meeting of December 4, 1997, the Commission issued an order adopting and directing publication of proposed regulations to establish a means by which the Commission can develop uniform measurement and reporting requirements to assure that the customer services of EDCs are maintained, at a minimum, at the same level of quality under retail competition.


   By order adopted March 13, 1997, at Docket No. M-00960890F0007 (March Order), the Commission solicited comments on a variety of potential quality of service measures such as business office access, complaint resolution, posting customer payments, billing adjustments, installation of service, investigations and repairs, appointments kept with customers, meter reading, service reliability indices and customer satisfaction surveys. The order asked the EDCs to describe their current monitoring of customer service performance, performance standards and historic service performance.

   In November 1997, the Bureau of Consumer Services (BCS) met with EDC representatives to clarify the information provided by the EDCs in response to the March order and to identify the benchmarks currently used by the EDCs to evaluate their own performance.

   Based on the review of the comments and recommendations to the March order and the discussion with the EDC representatives, the Commission instituted a rulemaking proceeding to establish a means by which the Commission can assure that the quality of each EDC's customer service performance is being maintained. The proposed regulations set forth uniform measures and standard data reporting requirements for various components of an EDC's customer service performance and established effective dates for the reporting requirements.

   After the Commission has experience with receiving data, it will embark on a separate proceeding to establish performance benchmarks and standards for the EDCs. The Commission will also consider establishing reporting for the electric generation suppliers (EGSs) on applicable customer service performance measures.

   The proposed regulations were published at 28 Pa.B. 514 (January 31, 1998) and a 30-day comment period set. The 30-day comment period for public comments ended March 2, 1998. The proposed rulemaking was served on all jurisdictional electric companies, the Office of Consumer Advocate, the Office of Small Business Advocate, participants in the Commission's electric competition investigation at Docket No. I- 00940032, the Electric Competition Legislative Stakeholders, all parties of record and the Universal Service and Energy Conservation Work Group. The Commission order was also posted on the Commission's Internet website.

   We received comments from the Pennsylvania Electric Association (PEA) on behalf of its member companies; the Office of the Consumer Advocate (OCA); Duquesne Light Company (Duquesne); GPU Energy (GPU); PECO Energy (PECO); PP&L, Inc. (PP&L); UGI Utilities, Inc. - Electric Division (UGI); Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Inc. (Columbia); Equitable Gas Company (Equitable); the Pennsylvania Gas Association (PGA); Lawrence G. Spielvogel, Inc. (Spielvogel); the Mid-Atlantic Power Supply Association (MAPSA); the Environmentalists on behalf of the Clean Air Council, the Sierra Club, Citizen Power, the Energy Coordinating Agency, and the Nonprofits Energy Savings Investment Program; and IRRC.

   We have considered all these comments. We appreciate and thank the commentators for suggestions to improve the proposed reporting requirements.

   We have identified certain issues that were common to a number of the comments and will address them in a combined fashion. We begin by addressing the comments to specific sections. We address other nonsection specific comments after our response to the specific section-by-section comments. For example, several commentors addressed future actions of the Commission as far as what the Commission will do with the data obtained as a result of the reporting requirements and the establishment of similar reporting requirements for the EGSs. We address these comments under the ''Other Issues'' section of this order.

§ 54.151.  Purpose.

   We received no comments specific to § 54.151. However, we felt it appropriate to respond to one of the PEA's introductory comments regarding the collection of data by the EDCs. The PEA commented that the EDCs do not use the same method or have the same system capabilities to collect, measure and report data. Duquesne, UGI and GPU commented along similar lines. It is important to point out that the primary objective of this rulemaking is to establish a common set of measures for which performance data will be uniformly collected and reported to the Commission in a standard format. As a result of this effort, we expect that the EDCs will report data that has been gathered in a uniform way. Uniform data collection and reporting is the foundation which this rulemaking seeks to establish for the Commission and is essential to the Commission's future consideration of standards and benchmarks.

   We are firmly committed to working toward the establishment of benchmarks and will do so based on the data reported in compliance with this rulemaking. Therefore, we strongly recommend to the EDCs and to the PEA that they take the necessary steps to make sure that they collect and report the data required by this rulemaking in a uniform manner. We will coordinate one or more meetings with representatives of the EDCs to work out the details of the reporting requirements.

§ 54.152.  Definitions.

   We have revised and clarified the language of the definitions based on comments of the interested parties. Consistent with the recommendations of the OCA, we have added the term ''business office'' and revised the definition of ''call center.'' In addition, we agree with the OCA that ''calls that were received'' is the appropriate denominator in the calculation of the busy-out rate and have revised the language of the regulation accordingly. We have clarified justified informal complaint rate and justified payment arrangement request rate by inserting ''residential'' into the definitions.

   We did not agree with Columbia's suggestion that abandoned calls should be calculated as abandoned only if the call is abandoned after 45 seconds and thus did not revise the definition of ''call abandonment rate.''

   We rejected the PGA's recommendations related to infractions and infraction rates. The BCS does not limit its investigation or citation of infractions to Chapter 56; it investigates infractions of all Commission regulations discovered during its investigation of informal complaints and payment arrangement requests. We also reject the PGA's suggestion to replace ''apparent'' with ''alleged'' in the infraction definition because the BCS uses the term ''alleged'' to refer to infractions gleaned from its investigation of consumer complaints that are referred to the offending company for response. This has been the meaning of the term ''alleged'' for more than 15 years.

   As recommended by many parties, including IRRC, we revised the label and definition of ''small commercial customer'' to the following: ''small business customer''--a person, sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, association or other business entity that receives electric service under a small commercial, small industrial or small business rate classification, and whose maximum registered peak load was less than 25 kW within the last 12 months. This definition is consistent with the recommendations and mirrors the definition developed by Commission staff for the Customer Information Disclosure Requirements for Electricity Providers final order and rule.

   Some of the commentators recommended the deletion of certain definitions that pertain to sections of the reporting requirements that they suggested be deleted. We will address these comments as we address the applicable sections of the rule.

§ 54.153.  Reporting Requirements.

   The PEA, Duquesne, PP&L, GPU and UGI-Electric suggested changing the reporting requirements to annual reporting requirements. They argued that there is no need for biannual reporting, especially because this new requirement would create additional expense under capped rates. Further, the PEA argued that the Commission review of customer complaints will alert them to developing problems.

   IRRC asked the Commission to estimate the cost of submitting a report twice a year. IRRC recommended comparing the estimated costs with the benefits identified by the Commission to determine whether the report should be submitted annually or twice a year. We cannot estimate a dollar figure to produce the required reports. Each EDC has different pay scales for its employes and can track and report data using different computer packages. Some of the EDCs already have these statistics on hand and others need to make some changes to accommodate the reporting requirements. Thus, the cost for one company could be far different than the cost for another. However, we believe that the EDCs can have this data each month and the cost differential of compiling it into a report twice a year as compared to once a year should be quite small. The EDCs should be producing this data regularly for their own analysis and work plans and may have this information available daily. The Commission plans to design an electronic reporting format that will allow the companies to plug in the numbers and deliver them to the Commission.

   With the significant changes that are taking place in the electric industry, we believe that it is very important that the Commission receive reports on these important issues more than once each year during the transition to full competition. As electric generation becomes a competitive industry, these regulations are designed to ensure that the continuing regulated customer services of an EDC do not deteriorate. The Commission must monitor the effect of EDC reengineering efforts. If an EDC were to experience a deterioration in service that would begin in February, with annual reporting, the Commission would not become aware of the problem until the following February. Due to the significant changes that are taking place within the industry at this time, we believe that semiannual reporting will be beneficial during the early stages of competition. On the other hand, we think it is important that the reporting requirements are not overly burdensome. In consideration of both these positions, we have amended the rulemaking to allow for semiannual reporting in the first year, followed by annual reporting thereafter.

   The OCA suggested amendment of this section to make clear that the data be provided for each performance area each month. We agree with this suggestion and have revised this section to require that the reports include data compiled and reported for each month as well as a 6-month cumulative average for the first report and a 12-month cumulative average for the reports that follow.

   The OCA also recommended requiring utilities to analyze and compare, to the extent possible, their previous service quality with that reflected in the EDC's first report to the Commission. We agree with this recommendation. However, we believe it important to require the EDCs to compare and analyze the quality of their performance regularly. We have added this requirement to § 54.153(c).

Subsection (a).  Telephone Access

   Columbia Gas commented that the provisions on telephone access should distinguish between emergency calls and all other customer inquiries. We do not agree with Columbia's suggestions. All companies will have a certain percentage of calls that are generated as a result of emergencies. Similarly, PP&L recommended that the access statistics reflect the impact of storms because call volume increases significantly during major storms and despite steps to increase capability, the large volume of calls restricts customers' access to the call center. PP&L commented that storm-related calls should be excluded from the report or provided in a separate report on telephone access during a major storm. We do not agree with these recommendations. Responsiveness during a storm or an emergency is a central part of service quality. If an emergency is of such proportion as to greatly affect the access statistics in a particular reporting period, the EDC can explain the situation in its report to the Commission under § 54.153(c).

   Columbia also proposed that data for nonemergency calls measure the percent of calls answered within 60 seconds rather than 30 seconds. However, the measurement of 30 seconds is recognized as the time period by which to measure access throughout the Nation. Further, in their responses to the March order several EDCs reported measuring access by percentage of calls answered within 30 seconds. We note the Commission's Chapter 63 regulations in § 63.59(b)(1) require local exchange carriers to answer 85% of customer calls within 20 seconds. We believe businesses should strive to answer the vast majority of calls from their customers in half a minute or less and thus we did not revise this section.

   The OCA suggested that the EDC report data for each call center or business office when there is more than one because company-wide data may mask localized performance failures even of a substantial nature. IRRC agreed with the OCA. We concur with these suggestions and have amended the regulation to require that an EDC provide separate reports for each call center and business office available to respond to calls from customers. The EDC is to provide two sets of data: data for each individual call center and/or business office and data that provides overall statistics for the EDC.

   PP&L suggested the Commission consider different performance standards for routine customer calls versus bill collection-related calls. We do not agree with PP&L's suggestion. An EDC should offer reasonable access to all customers, especially to those who need to get through to the company to discuss payment terms to avoid termination of service. When an EDC makes the policy decision to increase collection activity, we believe the EDC should take the necessary steps to make sure all customers are able to reach the company.

   Spielvogel commented that the reporting requirements in this section are not adequate and some other means to measure telephone access must be provided. The access measures included in this section are commonly accepted measures of access for utilities and for other businesses. In addition, based on our guiding principle to measure customer service performance by using established measures, we will not seek other measures of access performance.

   In its comments IRRC requested an explanation as to why the various measures in the reporting requirements are necessary to measure service quality. We included telephone access to the EDC as a measurement because we believe customers must be able to readily contact their EDCs with questions, complaints, requests for service and to report service outages and other problems. This component is second only to service reliability in importance to consumers. Other states such as New York include telephone access to a utility's call center or business office as an important measure of service quality. Access statistics are used or proposed throughout the nation as a measure of performance, not only for the electric industry but in the telephone industry as well. As mentioned earlier, Pennsylvania has regulations governing access rates to telephone utilities in § 63.59 (relating to operator-handled calls) relating to handling calls from customers, which specify the timeframe in which telephone companies must answer calls from customers seeking repair service.

   We proposed three measures of access as important to produce an accurate, overall picture of telephone access based on information provided by EDC representatives who pointed out that one measure of access could be manipulated to produce favorable results at the expense of other components.

   The reporting requirements will assist the Commission to assure quality customer service by producing measurement statistics to monitor the performance of the EDCs. As a result of the data produced, the Commission will be aware of and able to investigate deterioration in performance, and assure remedial action on the part of the company.

Subsection (b).  Billing

   The PGA and Columbia recommended eliminating billing data for small business customers. The reporting requirements are based on existing regulation and statute. The statute relating to billing procedures in 66 Pa.C.S. § 1509 (relating to billing procedures) specifies that all customers, including small business customers, be permitted to receive bills monthly. It is important to monitor this aspect of customer service performance for the small business customers.

   A typical quality of service measurement in billing may include billing error rates (percent canceled and rebilled). Responses to the March order revealed that this information is not available from the EDC for past performance and that seeking it in the future would require new record keeping on the part of the EDCs. Thus, for this paragraph, we determined that it would be appropriate to rely on existing regulations and statutes, that is, § 56.11 (relating to billing frequency) for residential customers and 66 Pa.C.S. § 1509 for small business customers. Both require companies to bill customers once each billing period or once each month.

   We believe the customer bill is extremely important to customers in that it is often the only communication between the company and a customer. We believe that a company must be able to produce and send this very fundamental statement to customers at regular intervals. The Chapter 56 regulations have been in effect for more than 20 years and thus the EDCs, in compliance with these regulations, have taken steps to achieve this basic requirement as part of their commitment to provide adequate service to customers; thus, this section is retained.

Subsection (c).  Meter Reading

   The Environmentalists, Spielvogel and OCA recommended that the meter reading data be reported for both the residential and small commercial classes. Based on the principle that we would strive to use information that is readily available in establishing quality of service reporting requirements, we formulated the quality of service reporting requirements on established regulation--primarily Chapter 56 regulations. There are currently no regulations that spell out the frequency at which companies must read the meters of small business customers.

   The Environmentalists recommended reducing the timeframe in which the EDCs obtain the readings, either customer supplied or actual. We crafted the reporting requirements to correspond with the meter reading sections of Chapter 56 and thus did not change the timeframes as proposed.

   The Environmentalists also recommended that the EDC's be directed to track and report on meter reading mistakes as well. We believe that the measurements on meter reading as proposed will adequately monitor meter reading performance. In response to the March order, only a few of the EDCs reported monitoring meter reading errors and thus this requirement would require new data collection on the part of the EDCs. Further, historical data would not be available on this measurement. The Commission's experience is that lack of meter readings generates a large number of complaints from residential customers.

   Equitable and Columbia suggested that this reporting requirement may not be an appropriate measurement since some customers fail to provide access or submit meter readings. We counter that the Chapter 56 regulations on meter reading have been in effect for 20 years. The companies are well aware they are required to obtain readings at specified intervals and have procedures when customers refuse to grant access, including the threat of and actual termination of service. We believe that the EDCs should have worked this problem out by now and should be able to obtain readings as required by the meter reading sections.

   As indicated earlier, we based the meter reading reporting requirements on Chapter 56 regulations. During its 20 years investigating consumer complaints, the BCS has learned that this very fundamental activity, or lack thereof, produces numerous complaints to both companies and to the BCS. Regular meter reading is important to produce accurate bills for customers who expect to receive bills based on the amount of service they have used. We are concerned that regular meter reading may be one of the customer service areas where, as the generation function becomes competitive, EDCs may reduce service resulting in more bills being estimated. We appreciate that from time to time companies may need to estimate customer bills, but we also have seen the effects of too many estimates. The Chapter 56 regulations require one company or customer-supplied reading within a 6-month period and an actual (company) reading at least once every 12 months. We believe that these minimum requirements can be met and therefore have retained them in the reporting requirements.

Subsection (d).  Response to Disputes.

   The OCA suggested that the Commission track the EDC's timeliness in responding to customer disputes for both small commercial and residential customers. The OCA also suggested the Commission require that the EDCs track and report a residential and small commercial dispute ratio by key categories. This section mirrors Chapter 56 regulations and thus does not address the disputes of small business customers. We did not accept the OCA's suggestion about commercial customers because the EDCs have had no mandate to track this information up to this point. We believe that to add this additional requirement would be onerous and burdensome. We have the same basic rationale for not incorporating into the regulation the OCA's suggestion about tracking by key categories. The EDCs have not had any requirement to track disputes by category in the past and we do not believe we should require any additional tracking at this point. We do believe the interaction survey results will serve as indicators of service quality problems in various categories and expect that the EDCs will use them. In addition, the Commission's BCSs will continue to track complaints to the Commission by category which will give a good indication of areas that need the attention of EDC management. The BCS supplies company specific information to each EDC on a quarterly basis and includes similar statistics for the major EDCs in its annual report.

   Columbia Gas recommended that data concerning responses to disputes be categorized between solely utility disputes and disputes which involve suppliers. Columbia believes that the number of contacts that are defined as disputes may increase as customers contact the utility with billing questions that ultimately involve the gas supplier. According to Columbia, if performance benchmarks are to be set based upon this data, the utility's ability to respond to disputes within 30 days should take into account possible delays occasioned by an increase in customer calls related to choice issues. We agree that customer choice issues may generate an increase in customer calls; however, we do not want to burden the EDCs with additional tracking. It is reasonable that EDC management would monitor the volume of these types of calls and alert the Commission to any associated problems by a written report explaining increases in the statistics reported.

   When a customer contacts a company with a dispute or complaint, the customer deserves a prompt investigation and response from the company. As with the two previous reporting requirements, § 54.153(4) is based on Chapter 56 requirements. We believe that this particular requirement will be an excellent indicator of the timeliness and promptness of an EDC's interaction with residential customers.

   This particular measurement partially replaces at least two potential measures for which we solicited comments in the March order: length of time to resolve complaints and length of time to complete nonemergency investigations and reports. These two measures are generally recognized by other states as accepted measures of customer service performance. However, due to the EDCs' lack of historical data on these measures and due to our desire not to place additional burdens on the EDCs to collect new data, we rely on Chapter 56. We believe this measure combined with the findings of the transaction surveys and the statistics from the BCS will produce a fairly accurate picture of the quality of an EDC's interactions with residential customers.

§ 54.154.  Customer Surveys.

   The Environmentalists expressed concern that the customer surveys take the place of objective data regarding EDC performance. The PGA agreed with this concern. The Environmentalists suggested the Commission increase the collection of objective data to measure customer service quality as originally proposed in the March order. We agree that in some instances the transaction surveys have taken the place of the objective data that we considered in the March order. Our review of the EDC responses to the data requests in that order and our subsequent meeting with representatives of the EDCs led us to conclude that the objective data we were seeking was not available and that to require its collection would be unduly burdensome to the companies. Although the collection of actual data for measures such as number of appointments kept and prompt and timely installation of new service would be desirable, we believe that the use of transaction survey results is the next best alternative to actual data. The survey results will give the Commission and the companies a good idea of where service is good and where improvement is needed.

   Columbia Gas and Equitable expressed concern about all EDCs using the same customer survey. Columbia commented that ''a one size fits all'' survey may restrict a utility's ability to measure pertinent data. In our opinion, EDCs may incorporate their own questions onto the Commission-approved surveys. We would require that the Commission survey questions be asked first, followed by the company-specific questions. Further, this regulation does not preclude any EDC from undertaking its own separate surveys of customers.

   The original intention in collecting customer service data from companies was to request records from the companies on number of appointments kept, response time to installation of service requests and emergency and nonemergency investigations and repairs, as well as the speed with which the EDCs posted customer payments. All these measures are commonly accepted as measures of customer service performance by experts in the field and are used in other states, particularly in New York. However, the EDC responses to the March Order and discussion with the EDC representatives led us to agree that requiring the EDCs to report on the above measures would be unduly burdensome to the EDCs. We agreed with the EDCs who suggested that we could monitor the EDC performance in these areas by asking specific and appropriate questions of a sample of the EDC customers who have had recent interactions with the EDCs regarding these and other issues. Thus, we are requiring each EDC to conduct transaction surveys of customers who have had recent interactions with the EDC so the Commission can monitor the responses.

(a)  General Survey.

   The PEA, the individual EDCs that commented to the proposed rulemaking and the PGA all recommended the deletion of the general survey requirement. They argued that the purpose of the general survey is to evaluate customer perceptions about EDCs and is not a reliable measurement of performance of the EDC. In addition they cited that conducting a general survey is expensive for the EDCs who are all operating under a rate cap at this time. IRRC also questioned the usefulness of the general survey to the Commission and asked us to provide an estimate of the costs to conduct the general survey and an explanation of how its findings will be used.

   We believe that the general survey would be valuable to the Commission and to the EDCs to assess the overall satisfaction of customers with the EDC. Research has shown that if the EDCs pay attention to general survey results they can take steps to resolve customer dissatisfaction and thus avoid many of the problems that are associated with customer dissatisfaction. However, we agree that the value of a uniform general survey for all EDCs may not outweigh the expense associated with its administration. Therefore we have deleted the requirement for a general survey from the rulemaking.

(b)  Transaction survey.

   The OCA suggested we require this survey to be statistically valid within plus or minus 5 percentage points. We agree the survey should, at a minimum, be statistically valid within this range and inserted appropriate language into the regulation.

   The OCA also recommended that the transaction survey be limited to residential and small business customers. We do not agree with this recommendation and have not revised the language. For the most part, we believe that industrial customers will have a specific contact within the company with whom to discuss problems, requests, and so forth. The majority of the customers surveyed will be residential customers, however we believe that it is important to survey a sample of all customers that had recent interactions with the EDC. The EDC may choose to have the results reported by customer class if it desires. We intend to form a working group to decide the details of the sampling techniques of the survey procedures and do not believe it is necessary to include this information in the regulation.

   Based on comments submitted by the PEA and some of its member companies about the importance of using predefined core attributes to measure customer satisfaction, we revised the language of the section on transaction surveys. In addition to the other areas that were in the proposed version, this section reads that survey questions shall measure the promptness by which the EDC responded to the customer's request and the EDC's timeliness of the response or visit. The surveys are also to include questions to measure satisfaction with the company's handling of the interaction. The addition of the language regarding satisfaction with the company's handling of the interaction will clarify that we realize that a customer may not be satisfied with the outcome of the interaction but be satisfied with the company's handling of the interaction. We believe that the majority of consumers are sophisticated enough to be able to recognize this difference. The language of the transaction survey questions will be crafted by the working group established to work on the surveys after the regulation is final.

   All of the parties agreed that the survey questionnaire should be uniform for all EDCs; however, several parties commented that we should allow the EDCs the freedom to carry out the surveys in their own fashion, using their own methodology and, some suggested, their own consultant. IRRC indicated that there is merit in allowing the EDCs flexibility in how to conduct the surveys. We have found the comments of IRRC and several of the EDCs to be constructive regarding the administration of the transaction surveys.

   An overall primary objective of the Commission for this rulemaking is to have the EDCs gather and report uniform quality of service data that can be compared among the Pennsylvania EDCs. We believe that it is of paramount importance that the survey instrument, sampling procedures, method of conducting the survey, analysis of results and reporting format be sufficiently uniform to support the Commission's overall primary objective. Although, as we stated earlier, the establishment of benchmarks will necessitate a separate proceeding, we do not want to automatically preclude the establishment of a standard that could be set for all EDCs. Without the prescribed uniformity, the Commission will not have a valid way of comparing the customer service performance of the EDCs in many important areas.

   We believe that we can obtain the standardization necessary to achieve the Commission's overall objective while allowing flexibility as to the entities that may actually conduct the transaction surveys. Building on the suggestions of GPU, PEA and UGI-Electric, we will convene and facilitate a working group to provide recommendations as how to best achieve standardization in the areas of case selection, sampling, survey instrumentation, conducting the survey, analysis of results and reporting that are sufficiently uniform to ensure that the Commission can directly compare customer service performance among the EDCs using the transaction survey data reports. We will not require that a single, independent third party conduct, analyze and report results of the survey for all EDCs. We will allow EDCs to conduct their own surveys or contract with a third party to conduct the survey under terms that the working group and the Commission agree will result in standard, comparable information being reported to the Commission. The Commission will also permit EDCs to incorporate additional questions into the transaction surveys as suggested by GPU, to the extent that they will not interfere with the Commission obtaining standard information on the content areas required by this rulemaking.

   The OCA and IRRC pointed out that the proposed language was not clear as to how often the transaction survey must be conducted. It is our intention that the transaction surveys be conducted at least monthly, or possibly on an ongoing basis. This is a matter that will be addressed by the working group. However, we do believe that a sample of consumers should be surveyed within 30 days after the company/consumer interaction has taken place because we think it is imperative that the interaction be fresh in the consumer's mind. We agree with the OCA and IRRC that the language needed to be revised and have added a subsection that stipulates this requirement.

   The OCA questioned why EDCs are given an extra year to submit survey results and suggested a uniform reporting requirement for all data that is, in August and February of each year. The OCA requested that the final rule require customer surveys to be conducted in 1999 and results reported beginning in August 1999. We purposely prepared the requirement with the proposed timeline because we realized that forming a working group and working out the details associated with the transaction surveys will take time. We also believe that it will take time to analyze and report the survey results from each 6-month period and thus have included a 3-month period for this work. In March 1998, the Commission issued a Secretarial letter asking the EDCs to supply results from their current surveys to the Commission for 1997, 1998 and 1999. In this way, the Commission will still have some opportunity to monitor customer satisfaction until the uniform surveying procedures are fully implemented.

   Under the timetable section, we amended the rulemaking to require that the EDCs should report the transaction survey results by month in their reports to the Commission as well as reporting 6- and 12-month average statistics. Transaction surveys are to be submitted every 6 months for the first year and annually thereafter. This will aid the Commission in monitoring seasonal fluctuations and other occurrences that may affect survey results.

§ 54.155.  Regulatory Performance.

   We have changed the section heading of § 54.155 to ''Informal Complaints to the BCSs.'' In our opinion this heading more appropriately denotes the features of this section. All of the reporting requirements in this section are based on informal consumer complaints to the Commission's BCSs, either consumer complaints about billing, service delivery, repairs, metering and so forth or requests for payment arrangements. Further, we want to clarify that the performance being measured through the investigation of consumer complaints and the informal compliance process is that of the EDCs and not of the regulatory agency. We believe that the new heading better conveys the intention of this section.

   PP&L agreed with the reporting components of this section but recommended that the BCSs statistics be reported by April 1 each year. The processing of BCS cases is not completed by April 1 of each year and thus, we did not accept this suggestion. The BCS does produce quarterly reports that it sends to the EDCs that can give an indication of where problems in EDC complaint handling are. The Commission, of course, has access to any of these reports.

   Duquesne suggested using justified percentage as a measure of regulatory performance because volume of complaints is often indicative of how well company representatives provide customers with appeal rights during the complaint resolution process. The Bureau of Consumer Services agrees with Duquesne to a certain extent but believes that justified rates, which take into account both volume of complaints and justified percent, are the more appropriate measures. Duquesne also recommended that the BCS publish the rules and procedures to determine if a case is justified. The BCS has met with EDC representatives on several occasions to explain its rules for determining whether or not a case is justified. The BCS will meet with the EDC representatives again to go over its rules, although the companies should be well aware of them by this time.

   The PGA suggested that the Commission should add a fifth element: the total number of customer contacts annually answered by a distribution company to provide a useful backdrop for assessing the four other elements to measure regulatory performance. Responses to the March order indicated that the majority of EDCs do not have this information available. Thus we have no historical base by which to judge future statistics. To require that the EDCs report this would require new data collection processes on the part of most of the EDCs and would likely add to their expenses.

   GPU suggested that benchmarking an EDC's customer service quality based upon infractions and infraction rate is not relevant. GPU argued that the Commission must analyze definitive, verified data rather than informally verified infractions identified through investigation of informal complaint and payment arrangement requests to the BCS. We counter that the significance of these infractions is that they frequently represent systematic errors that are widespread and affect many utility customers. The BCS compliance process helps EDCs and other utilities pinpoint and voluntarily correct deficiencies. The utilities have the opportunity to affirm or deny the allegation of an infraction and the BCS makes a determination based on the company's position. The BCS believes that the informally verified infractions would hold up under a lengthy, formal process but in most cases has not chosen to pursue this route. The design of the compliance process is to help utilities identify errors and take corrective action. In several instances when utilities have not taken correction action to improve compliance with Commission regulations, the BCS has taken formal action and the infraction citations have stood up under the formal scrutiny. We reject GPU's argument and retained number of infractions and infraction rate in the reporting requirements.

§ 54.156.  Public Information.

   Based on the recommendations of the Environmentalists and IRRC, we added a new section that requires the Commission to release the information collected by the reporting requirements to the public. The Environmentalists suggested that the individual EDC reports be made public, be sent to the OCA and to the Office of Small Business Advocate, and be posted on the Commission's Internet web site. We do not believe that the individual EDC reports should be released to the public for a variety of reasons, including the fact that often data needs to be verified and sometimes revised after the Commission has carefully reviewed the submissions. We also believe that individual reports will be of limited use to the public or to the specified agencies. In our opinion, a report that summarizes: 1) the individual reports of the EDCs; 2) the survey findings; and 3) the BCS statistics will have the greatest value to those interested in the customer service performance of the EDCs. Therefore, the language of the regulation reads that the Commission will annually produce a document that summarizes and reports quality of service information, by the EDC. We agree that posting the document on the Commission's Internet web site is ''user friendly'' and we included language to that effect. The language also requires that the Commission will supply the report to any interested party, rather than limiting the recipients to the OCA and OSBA. We believe that a comprehensive report produced annually will adequately satisfy the needs of the public and will accommodate the different reporting timetables of the various sections of the requirements.

Other Issues

   Several of the commentators including the PEA, several EDCs and the OCA suggested that the EGSs be required to adhere to similar reporting requirements. Section 2809(e) of the act (relating to requirements for electric generation supplies) mandates that the Commission is empowered to regulate EGSs to insure that quality of service is maintained. We agree with these comments. The Commission plans to institute proceedings to require the EGSs to report appropriate data regarding customer service performance. In addition, the Commission will consider the establishment of benchmarks and standards for suppliers. However, these are not the subject of the instant rulemaking and so we did not address them in this order except to say that we will consider them in the future.

   The MAPSA recommended that the EDCs be required to designate a portion of their customer service center to working with the EGSs acting as representatives for customers. The MAPSA further suggested that it is important to track matters brought by the EGSs to a customer service center. The MAPSA argued that the concept of an EDC ''customer'' must include an EGS acting as the representative for individual customers. The purpose of this rulemaking is not to address the EDC and EGS interactions; rather the purpose is to gather data on existing measures of customer service to existing end use customers. Thus, we have retained this section as written.

   IRRC recommended that the Commission consider tracking the quality of service provided to the EGSs by the EDCs for a future rulemaking. We agree with this recommendation. As we progress through the pilot phase of electric competition and the phase-in period, the Commission is closely monitoring and attempting to resolve the problems of all parties. The Commission's monitoring will determine the necessity of future rulemakings related to electric competition.

   The preliminary and concluding remarks in many of the comments we received pertained to several issues outside the scope of this rulemaking. We received a number of comments regarding the setting of benchmarks and standards. Our response to these comments is that the Commission does plan to establish benchmarks for the EDCs at a later date. This rulemaking is to establish uniform reporting on several important quality of service measures. The establishment of benchmarks or bands of acceptable performance will be the subject of a separate, future proceeding, based on the data collected.

   We also received several comments regarding the linking of the measures to financial rewards or penalties, or both. The Commission recognizes that information provided by EDCs under the requirements of these new regulations is being provided solely for the purpose of insuring that quality of service is maintained. Financial implications linked to quality of service measures, or implementation of performance-based rates or alternative regulations, or both, would be the subject of a separate proceeding.

   To fulfill our legislative mandate to ensure that the level of quality regarding customer service will not deteriorate in this Commonwealth, we amend our regulations to establish reporting requirements for quality of service benchmarks and standards. Accordingly, under sections 501 and 2807 of the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. §§ 501 and 2807(a) and (d), and the Commonwealth Documents Law (45 P. S. § 1202 et seq.) and the regulations promulgated thereunder at 1 Pa. Code §§ 7.1--7.4, we adopt the regulations at 52 Pa. Code §§ 54.151--54.156, as noted above and as set forth in Annex A; Therefore,

It is Ordered that:

   (1)  The regulations of the Commission, 52 Pa. Code Chapter 54, are amended by adding §§ 54.151--54.156 to read as set forth in Annex A.

   (2)  The Secretary shall submit this order and Annex A to the Office of Attorney General for approval as to legality.

   (3)  The Secretary shall submit this order and Annex A to the Governor's Budget Office for review of the fiscal impact.

   (4)  The Secretary shall submit this order and Annex A for formal review by the designated standing committees of both houses of the General Assembly, and for formal review and approval by IRRC.

   (5)  The Secretary shall deposit the original certified order and Annex A with the Legislative Reference Bureau for publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

   (6)  A copy of this order and Annex A shall be served upon all persons who submitted comments in this rulemaking proceeding.

   (7)  The regulations adopted with this order are effective upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

By the Commission


   (Editor's Note: The addition of § 56.156 (relating to public information) was not included in the proposal at 28 Pa.B. 514 (January 31, 1998). For the text of the order of the Independent Regulatory Review Commission relating to this document, see 28 Pa.B. 3338 (July 11, 1998).)

   Fiscal Note: Fiscal Note 57-192 remains valid for the final adoption of the subject regulations.

Annex A







54.153.Reporting requirements
54.154.Customer surveys.
54.155.Informal complaints to the BCS.
54.156.Public information.

§ 54.151.  Purpose.

   This subchapter establishes a means by which the Commission can develop uniform measurement and reporting to assure that the customer services of the EDCs are maintained, at a minimum, at the same level of quality under retail competition. This subchapter sets forth uniform measurements and reporting requirements for monitoring the level of the EDCs' customer service performance. This subchapter also establishes the effective dates of the reporting requirements.

§ 54.152.  Definitions.

   The following words and terms, when used in this subchapter, have the following meanings, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:

   BCS--The Bureau of Consumer Services of the Commission.

   Business office--A centralized service group which receives small commercial or residential billing inquiries, or both, and requests for service, whether or not equipped with an automated call distribution system.

   Busy-out rate--The number of calls to an EDC's call center or business office that received a busy signal divided by the number of calls that were received.

   Call abandonment rate--The number of calls to an EDC's call center or business office that were abandoned divided by the total number of calls received at the EDC's telephone call center or business office.

   Call center--A centralized facility established by a utility for transactions concerning installation and repair of service, billing and other inquiries between residential and small commercial customers and EDC representatives, but not including special purpose call centers established to respond to service emergencies and operating for a temporary period of time.

   Code--The Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. §§ 101--3316.

   Commission--The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

   Customer--A retail electric customer as defined in section 2803 of the code (relating to definitions).

   EDC--Electric Distribution Company--The term defined in section 2803 of the code.

   Informal consumer complaint--An appeal by a consumer to the BCS about a utility's proposed resolution of a dispute related to billing, service delivery, repairs and all other issues not related to requests for payment arrangements.

   Informally verified infraction--An apparent misapplication of Commission regulations as determined by the BCS through its examination of information obtained as part of its review of informal consumer complaints and payment arrangement requests:

   (i)  The informal verification process implemented by the BCS notifies a utility of the information which forms the basis of an alleged infraction, affords the utility the opportunity to affirm or deny the accuracy of the information, and concludes with a BCS determination regarding the alleged infraction.

   (ii)  An informally verified infraction is not equivalent to a formal violation under section 3301 of the code (relating to civil penalties for violations) unless otherwise determined through applicable Commission procedures.

   Infraction--A misapplication of a Commission regulation, particularly the standards and billing practices for residential service.

   Infraction rate--The number of informally verified infractions per 1,000 residential customers.

   Justified informal consumer complaint--A complaint where the BCS has determined that an EDC did not follow Commission procedures or regulations.

   Justified informal consumer complaint rate--The number of justified informal, residential consumer complaints per 1,000 residential customers.

   Justified payment arrangement request--A payment arrangement request where an EDC did not follow Commission negotiation procedures or regulations.

   Justified payment arrangement request rate--The number of justified payment arrangement requests from residential customers per 1,000 residential customers.

   Payment arrangement request--A customer request for payment terms to the BCS.

   Small business customer--A person, sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, association or other business that receives electric service under a small commercial, small industrial or small business rate classification, and whose maximum registered peak load was less than 25 kW within the last 12 months.

   Transaction survey--A survey targeted toward individuals that have had a recent interaction with an EDC. A transaction includes filing a complaint, inquiring about a bill, having a repair completed, installation of service or an appointment for a special meter reading.

§ 54.153.  Reporting requirements.

   (a)  Reporting requirements.

   (1)  Unless otherwise specified in this subchapter, each EDC shall file its first report with the Commission on or before August 1, 1999. The August report shall contain data, reported by month, from the first 6 months of the calendar year, as well as a 6-month cumulative average.

   (2)  Each EDC shall file its second report on or before February 1, 2000. The February report shall contain data, reported by month, from the second 6 months of the year as well as 6-month cumulative average and a 12-month cumulative average for the preceding calendar year.

   (3)  Thereafter, the EDCs shall file reports annually with the Secretary of the Commission on or before February 1. Each report shall contain data, reported by month, as well as a 12-month cumulative average for the preceding calendar year. Each report shall include the name and telephone number of the utility contact person responsible for the report.

   (b)  Records. Each EDC shall take measures necessary and keep sufficient records to report the following data to the Commission:

   (1)  Telephone access.

   (i)  The percent of calls answered at each EDC's call center or business office, or both, within 30 seconds with the EDC representative ready to render assistance and to accept information necessary to process the call. An acknowledgment that the customer or applicant is waiting on the line does not constitute an answer. If the EDC reports data for more than one call center or business office, the EDC should also provide the combined percent of calls answered within 30 seconds for the EDC as a whole.

   (ii)  The average busy-out rate for each call center business office, or both. If the EDC reports data for more than one call center or business office, the EDC should also provide the combined busy-out rate for the EDC as a whole.

   (iii)  The call abandonment rate for each call center or business office, or both. If the EDC reports data for more than one call center or business office, the EDC should also provide the combined call abandonment rate for the EDC as a whole.

   (2)  Billing.

   (i)  The number and percent of residential bills that the EDC failed to render once every billing period to residential ratepayers under § 56.11 (relating to billing frequency).

   (ii)  The number and percent of bills that the EDC failed to render once every billing period to small business customers.

   (3)  Meter reading.

   (i)  The number and percent of residential meters for which the company has failed to obtain an actual or ratepayer supplied reading within the past 6 months to verify the accuracy of estimated readings in accordance with § 56.12(4)(ii) (relating to meter reading; estimated billing; or ratepayer readings).

   (ii)  The number and percent of residential meters for which the company has failed to obtain an actual meter reading within the past 12 months to verify the accuracy of the readings, either estimated or ratepayer read in accordance with § 56.12(4)(iii).

   (iii)  The number and percent of residential remote meters for which it has failed to obtain an actual meter reading under the time frame in § 56.12(5)(ii).

   (4)  Response to disputes. The actual number of disputes as described in Chapter 56, Subchapter F (relating to disputes; termination disputes; informal and formal complaints) for which the company did not provide a response to the complaining party within 30 days of the initiation of the dispute under § 56.151(5) (relating to general rule).

   (c)  Comparison of service quality. Each EDC report to the Commission shall contain an analysis and comparison of the quality of service data in each performance area during the past 6 months with its previous service quality in these areas.

§ 54.154.  Customer surveys.

   (a)  Results of telephone transaction surveys. Each EDC shall report to the Commission the results of telephone transaction surveys of customers who have had interactions with the EDC.

   (1)  The purpose of the transaction surveys is to assess the customer perception regarding the most recent interaction with the EDC. Survey questions shall measure access to the utility, employe courtesy, employe knowledge, promptness of EDC response or visit, timeliness of EDC response or visit and satisfaction with the handling of the interaction.

   (2)  The transaction survey questions shall specifically address the circumstances that generated the most recent transaction. Interaction categories include the following:

   (i)  Service installation.

   (ii)  Premise visit by company field personnel for an activity other than service installation.

   (iii)  Service interruption.

   (iv)  Billing balance inquiry or dispute.

   (v)  Request for discontinuance of service.

   (vi)  Application for service.

   (vii)  Other similar interactions.

   (3)  The EDCs shall carry out the transaction survey process using instruments and procedures that provide the Commission with uniform data that can be used to directly compare customer service performance among EDCs in this Commonwealth.

   (4)  A customer or consumer being surveyed shall be contacted within 30 days of the date that the interaction with the EDC took place.

   (5)  The sampling plan shall be designed so that the results are statistically valid within plus or minus 5%.

   (b)  Commission approval. The survey instrumentation, as well as procedures for case selection, sampling, conducting the survey, analyzing results and reporting to the Commission shall be subject to the review and approval of the Commission.

   (c)  Timetable.

   (1)  The first report on survey results shall be submitted to the Commission on or before October 1, 2000. The October report shall contain survey results, reported by month, from the first 6 months of the calendar year.

   (2)  The second report shall be submitted on or before April 1, 2001. The April report shall contain results, reported by month, from the second 6 months of the previous year as well as cumulative 12-month results.

   (3)  Thereafter, the EDC shall submit survey results annually, on or before April 1. Each annual report shall contain results reported by month as well as cumulative 12-month results.

§ 54.155.  Informal complaints to the BCS.

   (a)  The BCS will review and analyze residential informal consumer complaints and payment arrangement requests filed with the Commission and will report the justified consumer complaint rate and the justified payment arrangement request rate to the Commission on an annual basis.

   (b)  The BCS will report to the Commission the number of informally verified infractions of applicable statutes and regulations relating to the treatment of residential accounts by each EDC. The BCS will calculate and report to the Commission an ''infraction rate'' for each EDC.

§ 54.156.  Public information.

   The Commission will annually produce a summary report on the customer service performance of each EDC using the statistics collected as a result of these reporting requirements. The reports will be public information. The Commission will provide the reports to any interested party and post the reports on the Commission's Internet website.

[Pa.B. Doc. No. 98-1097. Filed for public inspection July 10, 1998, 9:00 a.m.]

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