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Pennsylvania Code



Subchapter A. PRELIMINARY PROVISIONS FOR UTILITIES AND CUSTOMERS SUBJECT TO CHAPTER 14 OF THE
PUBLIC UTILITY CODE


Sec.


56.1.    Statement of purpose and policy.
56.2.    Definitions.

§ 56.1. Statement of purpose and policy.

 (a)  This chapter establishes and enforces uniform, fair and equitable residential public utility service standards governing eligibility criteria, credit and deposit practices, and account billing, termination and customer complaint procedures. This chapter assures adequate provision of residential public utility service, to restrict unreasonable termination of or refusal to provide that service and to provide functional alternatives to termination or refusal to provide that service while eliminating opportunities for customers capable of paying to avoid the timely payment of public utility bills and protecting against rate increases for timely paying customers resulting from other customers’ delinquencies. Public utilities shall utilize the procedures in this chapter to effectively manage customer accounts to prevent the accumulation of large, unmanageable arrearages. Every privilege conferred or duty required under this chapter imposes an obligation of good faith, honesty and fair dealing in its performance and enforcement. This chapter will be liberally construed to fulfill its purpose and policy and to insure justice for all concerned.

 (b)  This subchapter and Subchapters B—K apply to electric distribution utilities, natural gas distribution utilities, wastewater utilities, steam heat utilities, small natural gas utilities and water distribution utilities. Subchapters L—V apply to all customers who have been granted protection from abuse orders as provided by 23 Pa.C.S. Chapter 61 (relating to Protection from Abuse Act) or a court order issued by a court of competent jurisdiction in this Commonwealth which provides clear evidence of domestic violence against the applicant or customer.

Authority

   The provisions of this §  56.1 amended under the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. § §  501, 1301, 1401—1419, 1501 and 1509.

Source

   The provisions of this §  56.1 adopted June 16, 1978, effective June 17, 1978, 8 Pa.B. 1655; amended October 7, 2011, effective October 8, 2011, 41 Pa.B. 5473; amended May 31, 2019, effective June 1, 2019, 49 Pa.B. 2815. Immediately preceding text appears at serial page (367182).

Notes of Decisions

   Retail Services

   For a discussion of quality of residential electric service and billing in a retail environment, Re Guidelines for Maintaining Customer Services, 178 P.U.R. 4th 469 (July 11, 1997).

§ 56.2. Definitions.

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

   AMR—Automatic meter reading—

     (i)   Metering using technologies that automatically read and collect data from metering devices and transfer that data to a central database for billing and other purposes.

     (ii)   The term does not include remote meter reading devices as defined by this section.

     (iii)   Meter readings by an AMR shall be deemed actual readings for the purposes of this chapter.

   Account balance—The amount of current service which has been properly billed in addition to any accrued arrearages.

   Applicant

     (i)   A natural person at least 18 years of age not currently receiving service who applies for residential service provided by a public utility or any adult occupant whose name appears on the mortgage, deed or lease of the property for which the residential public utility service is requested.

     (ii)   The term does not include a person who, within 30 days after service termination or discontinuance of service, seeks to have service reconnected at the same location or transferred to another location within the service territory of the public utility.

   Basic services

     (i)   Services necessary for the physical delivery of residential public utility service.

     (ii)   The term also includes default service as defined in this section.

   Billing month—A period of not less than 26 days and not more than 35 days except in the following circumstances:

     (i)   An initial bill for a new customer may be less than 26 days or greater than 35 days. However, if an initial bill exceeds 60 days, the customer shall be given the opportunity to amortize the amount over a period equal to the period covered by the initial bill without penalty.

     (ii)   A final bill due to discontinuance may be less than 26 days or greater than 35 days but may never exceed 42 days. In cases involving termination, a final bill may be less than 26 days.

     (iii)   Bills for less than 26 days or more than 35 days shall be permitted if they result from a rebilling initiated by the company or customer dispute to correct a billing problem.

     (iv)   Bills for less than 26 days or more than 35 days shall be permitted if they result from a meter reading route change initiated by the public utility. The public utility shall informally contact the Director of the Bureau of Consumer Services at least 30 days prior to the rerouting and provide information as to when the billing will occur, the number of customers affected and a general description of the geographic area involved. If a bill resulting from a meter rerouting exceeds 60 days, the customer shall be given the opportunity to amortize the amount over a period equal to the period covered by the bill without penalty.

     (v)   Bills for less than 26 days shall be permitted when there is a change of the customer’s electric generation or natural gas supplier.

   Billing period—In the case of public utilities supplying gas, electric and steam heating service, the billing period must conform to the definition of ‘‘billing month.’’ In the case of water and wastewater service, a billing period may be monthly, bimonthly or quarterly as provided in the tariff of the public utility. Customers shall be permitted to receive bills monthly and be notified of their rights thereto.

   Class A water utility—A water utility with annual revenues greater than $1 million.

   Creditworthiness—An assessment of an applicant’s or customer’s ability to meet bill payment obligations for utility service.

   Customer

     (i)   A natural person at least 18 years of age in whose name a residential service account is listed and who is primarily responsible for payment of bills rendered for the service or an adult occupant whose name appears on the mortgage, deed or lease of the property for which the residential public utility service is requested.

     (ii)   The term includes a person who, within 30 days after service termination or discontinuance of service, seeks to have service reconnected at the same location or transferred to another location within the service territory of the public utility.

   Customer assistance program—A plan or program sponsored by a public utility for the purpose of providing universal service and energy conservation, as defined in 66 Pa.C.S. §  2202 or §  2803 (relating to definitions), in which customers make monthly payments based on household income and household size and under which customers shall comply with certain responsibilities and restrictions to remain eligible for the program.

   Cycle billing—A system of billing employed by a public utility which results in the normal rendition of bills for public utility service to a group or portion of customers on different or specified days of one billing period.

   Default service—Electric generation supply service provided under a default service program to a retail electric customer not receiving service from an electric generation supplier.

   Delinquent account—Charges for public utility service which have not been paid in full by the due date stated on the bill or otherwise agreed upon; provided that an account may not be deemed delinquent if: prior to the due date, a payment arrangement with the public utility has been entered into by the customer, a timely filed notice of dispute is pending before the public utility, or, under time limits provided in this chapter, an informal or formal complaint is timely filed with and is pending before the Commission.

   Discontinuance of service—The cessation of service with the consent of the customer and otherwise in accordance with §  56.72 (relating to discontinuance of service).

   Dispute—A grievance of an applicant, customer or occupant about a public utility’s application of a provision covered by this chapter, including, but not limited to, subjects such as credit determinations, deposit requirements, the accuracy of meter readings or bill amounts or the proper party to be charged. If, at the conclusion of an initial contact or, when applicable, a follow-up response, the applicant, customer or occupant indicates satisfaction with the resulting resolution or explanation of the subject of the grievance, the contact will not be considered a dispute.

   Dwelling—A house, apartment, mobile home or single meter multiunit structure being supplied with residential service.

   Electric distribution utility—An entity providing facilities for the jurisdictional transmission and distribution of electricity to retail customers, except building or facility owners or operators that manage the internal distribution system serving the building or facility and that supply electric power and other related electric power services to occupants of the building or facility.

   Electronic billing—The electronic delivery and presentation of bills and related information sent by a public utility to its customers using a system administered by the public utility or a system the public utility is responsible for maintaining.

   Electronic notification of payment—A notification generated by an electronic payment system upon receipt of a payment from a customer using an electronic billing and payment system administered by the public utility or a system the public utility is responsible for maintaining. The notification must inform the customer of successful receipt and amount of payment and the date and time the payment was received.

   Electronic remittance of payment—The electronic receipt of payment from customers to a public utility using a system administered by the public utility or a system the public utility is responsible for maintaining.

   Emergency—An unforeseen combination of circumstances requiring temporary discontinuance of service to effect repairs or maintenance or to eliminate an imminent threat to life, health, safety or property.

   Federal poverty level—The poverty guidelines updated periodically in the Federal Register by the United States Department of Health and Human Services under the authority of section 673(2) of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) of 1981 (42 U.S.C.A. §  9902(2)).

   Formal complaint—A complaint filed before the Commission requesting a legal proceeding before a Commission administrative law judge or a mediation under the management of a Commission administrative law judge.

   Household income—The combined gross income of all adults in a residential household who benefit from the public utility service.

   Informal complaint—A complaint with the Commission submitted by a customer that does not involve a legal proceeding before a Commission administrative law judge or a mediation under the management of a Commission administrative law judge.

   Initial inquiry—A concern or question of an applicant, customer or occupant about a public utility’s application of a provision covered by this chapter, including, but not limited to, subjects such as credit determinations, deposit requirements, the accuracy of meter readings or bill amounts or the proper party to be charged. If a public utility, with the consent of the applicant, customer or occupant, offers to review pertinent records and call back the applicant, customer or occupant within 3 business days with a response, the contact will be considered an initial inquiry pending a determination of satisfaction by the applicant, customer or occupant with the company’s response. If the company cannot reach the customer to convey the information obtained through a review of company records, a letter shall be sent which summarizes the information and informs the customer to contact the company within 5 business days if the customer disagrees with the company position, or has additional questions or concerns about the matter.

   Medical certificate—A written document, in a form approved by the Commission, and consistent with §  56.113 (relating to medical certifications), that:

     (i)   Certifies that a customer or member of the customer’s household is seriously ill or has been diagnosed with a medical condition which requires the continuation of service to treat the medical condition.

     (ii)   Is signed by a licensed physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant.

   Natural gas distribution service—The delivery of natural gas to retail gas customers utilizing the jurisdictional facilities of a natural gas distribution utility.

   Natural gas distribution utility

     (i)   A city natural gas distribution operation or entity that provides natural gas distribution services and may provide natural gas supply services and other services.

     (ii)   The term does not include the following:

       (A)   A public utility providing natural gas distribution services subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission that has annual gas operating revenues of less than $6 million per year, except when the public utility voluntarily petitions the Commission to be included within this definition or when the public utility seeks to provide natural gas supply services to retail gas customers outside its service territory.

       (B)   A public utility providing natural gas distribution services subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission that is not connected to an interstate gas pipeline by means of a direct connection or an indirect connection through the distribution system of another natural gas public utility or through a natural gas gathering system.

   Natural gas supply services

     (i)   The sale or arrangement of the sale of natural gas to retail gas customers and services that may be unbundled by the Commission under 66 Pa.C.S. §  2203(3) (relating to standards for restructuring of natural gas utility industry).

     (ii)   The term does not include natural gas distribution service.

   Nonbasic services—Optional recurring services which are distinctly separate and clearly not required for the physical delivery of public utility service or default service.

   Nurse practitioner—An individual licensed in this Commonwealth by the State Board of Nursing as a certified registered nurse practitioner under 49 Pa. Code Chapter 21, Subchapter C (relating to certified registered nurse practitioners).

   Occupant—A natural person who resides in the premises to which public utility service is provided.

   Payment arrangement—An arrangement in which a customer or applicant who admits liability for billed service is permitted to amortize or pay the unpaid balance of the account in one or more payments.

   Person—An individual, partnership, corporation, association, including any lessee, assignee, trustee, receiver, executor, administrator and other successors in interest.

   Physician—An individual licensed in this Commonwealth to practice medicine and surgery under 49 Pa. Code Chapter 17, Subchapter A (relating to licensure of medical doctors) or an individual licensed in this Commonwealth to practice osteopathic medicine and surgery under 49 Pa. Code Chapter 25, Subchapter A (relating to general provisions).

   Physician assistant—An individual licensed by the State Board of Medicine in this Commonwealth as a physician assistant under 49 Pa. Code Chapter 18, Subchapter D (relating to physician assistants) or an individual licensed by the State Board of Osteopathic Medicine in this Commonwealth as a physician assistant under 49 Pa. Code Chapter 25, Subchapter C (relating to physician assistant provisions).

   Premises or affected premises—Unless otherwise indicated, the residence of the occupant.

   Public utility—An electric distribution utility, natural gas distribution utility, small natural gas distribution utility, steam heat utility, wastewater utility or water distribution utility in this Commonwealth that is within the jurisdiction of the Commission.

   Remote reading device

     (i)   A device which by electrical impulse or otherwise transmits readings from a meter, usually located within a residence, to a more accessible location outside of a residence.

     (ii)   The term does not include the following:

       (A)   AMR devices as defined in this section.

       (B)   Devices that permit direct interrogation of the meter.

   Residential service

     (i)   Public utility service supplied to a dwelling, including service provided to a commercial establishment if concurrent service is provided to a residential dwelling attached thereto.

     (ii)   The term does not include public utility service provided to a hotel or motel.

   Small natural gas distribution utility—A public utility providing natural gas distribution services subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission that meets one of the following:

     (i)   Has annual gas operating revenues of less than $6 million per year.

     (ii)   Is not connected to an interstate gas pipeline by means of a direct connection or any indirect connection through the distribution system of another natural gas public utility or through a natural gas gathering system.

   Steam heat utility—An entity producing, generating, distributing or furnishing steam for the production of heat or to or for the public for compensation.

   Termination of service—Cessation of service, whether temporary or permanent, without the consent of the customer.

   Unauthorized use of public utility service—Unreasonable interference or diversion of service, including meter tampering (any act which affects the proper registration of service through a meter), by-passing unmetered service that flows through a device connected between a service line and customer-owned facilities and unauthorized service restoral.

   User without contract—A person as defined in 66 Pa.C.S. §  102 (relating to definitions) that takes or accepts public utility service without the knowledge or approval of the public utility, other than the unauthorized use of public utility service as defined in this section.

   Wastewater utility

     (i)   An entity owning or operating equipment or facilities for the collection, treatment or disposal of sewage to or for the public for compensation.

     (ii)   The term includes separate companies that individually provide water or wastewater service so long as the separate companies are wholly owned by a common parent company.

   Water distribution utility—An entity owning or operating equipment or facilities for diverting, developing, pumping, impounding, distributing or furnishing water to or for the public for compensation.

Authority

   The provisions of this §  56.2 amended under the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. § §  501, 504—505, 1301, 1401—1419, 1501 and 1509.

Source

   The provisions of this §  56.2 adopted June 16, 1978, effective June 17, 1978, 8 Pa.B. 1655; amended September 22, 1978, effective September 23, 1978, 8 Pa.B. 2632; amended April 8, 1983, effective April 9, 1983, 13 Pa.B. 1250; amended February 28, 1986, effective March 1, 1986, 16 Pa. B. 597; amended February 13, 1998, effective February 14, 1998, 28 Pa.B. 801; amended July 17, 1998, effective August 17, 1998, 28 Pa.B. 3379; amended October 7, 2011, effective October 8, 2011, 41 Pa.B. 5473; amended May 31, 2019, effective June 1, 2019, 49 Pa.B. 2815. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (367182) and (358939) to (358944).

Notes of Decisions

   The utility did not improperly require customers to talk to the utility before filing a complaint with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, where the regulations require the public utilities to attempt to resolve a dispute with a customer before any informal or formal complaint is filed with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, and where the language used by the utility in its billing statement complied with 52 Pa. Code §  56.2. Aronson v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, 740 A.2d 1208 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1999); appeal denied 751 A.2d 193 (Pa. 2000).

Cross References

   This section cited in 52 Pa. Code §  55.115 (relating to coordination with other regulations); 52 Pa. Code §  56.91 (relating to general notice provisions and contents of termination notice); 52 Pa. Code §  56.140 (relating to follow-up response to inquiry); 52 Pa. Code §  56.164 (relating to termination pending resolution of the dispute); 52 Pa. Code §  56.191 (relating to payment and timing); 52 Pa. Code Chapter 56 Appendix C (relating to definitions (§  56.231)); and 52 Pa. Code §  75.12 (relating to definitions).



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