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Pennsylvania Code



Subchapter Q. DISPUTES; TERMINATION DISPUTES; INFORMAL AND FORMAL COMPLAINTS


GENERAL PROVISIONS

Sec.


56.371.    Follow-up response to inquiry.
56.372.    Dispute procedures.
56.373.    Time for filing an informal complaint.
56.374.    Effect of failure to timely file an informal complaint.

PUBLIC UTILITY COMPANY DISPUTE PROCEDURES


56.381.    General rule.
56.382.    Contents of the public utility company report.

INFORMAL COMPLAINT PROCEDURES


56.391.    Informal complaint filing procedures.
56.392.    Commission informal complaint procedure.
56.393.    Termination pending resolution of the dispute.
56.394.    Conference procedures.

FORMAL COMPLAINTS


56.401.    General rule.
56.402.    Filing.
56.403.    Review from informal complaint decisions of the Bureau of Consumer Services.
56.404.    Ability to pay proceedings.

PAYMENT OF BILLS PENDING RESOLUTION OF
DISPUTES AND COMPLAINTS


56.411.    Duties of parties: disputing party’s duty to pay undisputed portion of bills; public utility’s duty to pay interest whenever overpayment found.

Authority

   The provisions of this Subchapter Q issued under the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. § §  1401—1419, unless otherwise noted.

Source

   The provisions of this Subchapter Q adopted October 7, 2011, effective October 8, 2011, 41 Pa.B. 5473, unless otherwise noted.

Cross References

   This subchapter cited in 52 Pa. Code §  56.1 (relating to statement of purpose and policy); 52 Pa. Code §  56.251 (relating to statement of purpose and policy); and 52 Pa. Code §  56.252 (relating to definitions).

GENERAL PROVISIONS


§ 56.371. Follow-up response to inquiry.

 When a customer is waiting for a follow-up response to an initial inquiry under §  56.252 (relating to definitions), termination or threatening termination of service, for the subject matter relating to the inquiry in question, shall be prohibited until the follow-up response and, when applicable, subsequent dispute resolution is completed by the public utility.

Authority

   The provisions of this §  56.371 amended under the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. § §  501, 1301, 1401—1419, 1501 and 1509.

Source

   The provisions of this §  56.371 amended May 31, 2019, effective June 1, 2019, 49 Pa.B. 2815. Immediately preceding text appears at serial page (359057).

§ 56.372. Dispute procedures.

 A notice of dispute, including termination disputes, must proceed, according to this section:

   (1)  Attempted resolution. If, at any time prior to the actual termination of service, a customer advises the public utility that the customer disputes any matter covered by this chapter, including, but not limited to, credit determinations, deposit requirements, the accuracy of public utility metering or billing or the proper party to be charged, the public utility shall attempt to resolve the dispute in accordance with §  56.381 (relating to general rule).

   (2)  Termination stayed. Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, when a termination dispute or complaint has been properly filed in accordance with this subchapter, termination shall be prohibited until resolution of the dispute or complaint. However, the disputing party shall pay undisputed portions of the bill.

Authority

   The provisions of this §  56.372 amended under the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. § §  501, 1301, 1401—1419, 1501 and 1509.

Source

   The provisions of this §  56.372 amended May 31, 2019, effective June 1, 2019, 49 Pa.B. 2815. Immediately preceding text appears at serial page (359058).

Cross References

   This section cited in 52 Pa. Code §  56.266 (relating to transfer of accounts).

§ 56.373. Time for filing an informal complaint.

 To be timely filed, an informal complaint—which may not include disputes under § §  56.285 and 56.421 (relating to payment of outstanding balance; and payment and timing)—shall be filed prior to the day on which the public utility arrives to terminate service. If the public utility arrives to terminate service and posts a deferred termination notice in lieu of termination or otherwise fails to terminate service, the time for filing an informal complaint shall be extended until the end of the business day prior to the public utility again arriving to terminate service.

Authority

   The provisions of this §  56.373 amended under the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. § §  501, 1301, 1401—1419, 1501 and 1509.

Source

   The provisions of this §  56.373 amended May 31, 2019, effective June 1, 2019, 49 Pa.B. 2815. Immediately preceding text appears at serial page (359058).

Cross References

   This section cited in 52 Pa. Code §  56.266 (relating to transfer of accounts).

§ 56.374. Effect of failure to timely file an informal complaint.

 Failure to timely file an informal complaint, except for good cause, shall constitute a waiver of applicable rights to retain service without complying with the termination notice or conference report of the public utility.

Authority

   The provisions of this §  56.374 amended under the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. § §  501, 1301, 1401—1419, 1501 and 1509.

Source

   The provisions of this §  56.374 amended May 31, 2019, effective June 1, 2019, 49 Pa.B. 2815. Immediately preceding text appears at serial page (359058).

Cross References

   This section cited in 52 Pa. Code §  56.266 (relating to transfer of accounts).

PUBLIC UTILITY COMPANY DISPUTE PROCEDURES


§ 56.381. General rule.

 Upon initiation of a dispute covered by this section, the public utility shall:

   (1)  Not issue a termination notice based on the disputed subject matter.

   (2)  Investigate the matter using methods reasonable under the circumstances, which may include telephone or personal conferences, or both, with the customer or occupant.

   (3)  Make a diligent attempt to negotiate a reasonable payment agreement if the customer or occupant claims a temporary inability to pay an undisputed bill. Factors which shall be considered in the negotiation of a payment agreement include, but are not limited to:

     (i)   The size of the unpaid balance.

     (ii)   The ability of the customer to pay.

     (iii)   The payment history of the customer.

     (iv)   The length of time over which the bill accumulated.

   (4)  Provide the customer or occupant with the information necessary for an informed judgment, including, but not limited to, relevant portions of tariffs, statements of account and results of meter tests.

   (5)  Within 30 days of the initiation of the dispute, issue its report to the complaining party. The public utility shall inform the complaining party that the report is available upon request.

     (i)   If the complainant is not satisfied with the dispute resolution, the public utility company report must be in writing and conform to §  56.382 (relating to contents of the public utility company report). Further, in these instances, the written report shall be sent to the complaining party if requested or if the public utility deems it necessary.

     (ii)   If the complaining party is satisfied with the orally conveyed dispute resolution, the written public utility company report may be limited to the information in §  56.382(1) and (2) and, when applicable, §  56.382(7)(ii) or (8)(ii).

     (iii)   The information and documents required under this subsection may be electronically provided to the complaining party as long as the complaining party has the ability to accept electronic documents and consents to receiving them electronically.

Authority

   The provisions of this §  56.381 amended under the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. § §  501, 1301, 1401—1419, 1501 and 1509.

Source

   The provisions of this §  56.381 amended May 31, 2019, effective June 1, 2019, 49 Pa.B. 2815. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (359058) to (359059).

Cross References

   This section cited in 52 Pa. Code §  56.354 (relating to length of postponement; renewals); and 52 Pa. Code §  56.372 (relating to dispute procedures).

§ 56.382. Contents of the public utility company report.

 A public utility company report must include all of the following:

   (1)  A statement of the claim or dispute of the customer and a copy thereof if the claim or notice of dispute was made in writing.

   (2)  The position of the public utility regarding that claim.

   (3)  A statement that service will not be terminated pending completion of the dispute process, including both informal and formal complaints, so long as there is compliance with all requirements of the Commission.

   (4)  A statement that if the complaining party does not agree with the public utility company report, an informal complaint shall be filed with the Commission to ensure the preservation of all of the complaining party’s rights.

   (5)  The office where payment may be made or information obtained listing the appropriate telephone number and address of the public utility.

   (6)  A full and complete explanation of procedures for filing an informal complaint with the Commission (see §  56.391 (relating to informal complaint filing procedures)). If a written report is not requested by the complaining party or is not deemed necessary by the public utility, the public utility shall provide the information in §  56.391(1), (2) and (5). In addition, the public utility shall always provide the telephone number and address of the office of the Commission where an informal complaint may be filed.

   (7)  If the matter in dispute involves a billing dispute, the report must include the following:

     (i)   An itemized statement of the account of the complaining customer specifying the amount of credit, if any, and the proper amount due.

     (ii)   The date on or after which the account will become delinquent unless a payment agreement is entered into or an informal complaint is filed with the Commission. This date may not be earlier than the due date of the bill or 15 days after the issuance of a public utility company report, whichever is later.

   (8)  If the matter involves a dispute other than a billing dispute, the report must also state the following:

     (i)   The action required to be taken to avoid the termination of service.

     (ii)   The date on or after which service shall be terminated in accordance with the applicable requirements unless the report is complied with or a payment agreement entered into or an informal complaint filed. This date may not be earlier than the original date for compliance with the matter which gave rise to the dispute or 10 days from the date of issuance of the public utility company report, whichever is later. If the public utility company report is in writing, the information in this paragraph shall be prominently displayed.

Authority

   The provisions of this §  56.382 amended under the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. § §  501, 1301, 1401—1419, 1501 and 1509.

Source

   The provisions of this §  56.382 amended May 31, 2019, effective June 1, 2019, 49 Pa.B. 2815. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (359059) to (359060).

Cross References

   This section cited in 52 Pa. Code §  56.340 (relating to winter termination procedures); 52 Pa. Code §  56.354 (relating to length of postponement; renewals); 52 Pa. Code §  56.358 (relating to right of public utility to petition the Commission); and 52 Pa. Code §  56.381 (relating to general rule).

INFORMAL COMPLAINT PROCEDURES


§ 56.391. Informal complaint filing procedures.

 An informal complaint may be filed orally or in writing and must include the following information:

   (1)  The name and address of the complainant and, if different, the address at which service is provided.

   (2)  The telephone number of the complainant.

   (3)  The account number of the complainant, if applicable.

   (4)  The name of the public utility.

   (5)  A brief statement of the dispute.

   (6)  Whether the dispute formerly has been the subject of a public utility company investigation and report.

   (7)  Whether the dispute formerly has been the subject of a Commission informal or formal complaint.

   (8)  The date, if any, of proposed termination.

   (9)  The relief sought.

Authority

   The provisions of this §  56.391 amended under the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. § §  501, 1301, 1401—1419, 1501 and 1509.

Source

   The provisions of this §  56.391 amended May 31, 2019, effective June 1, 2019, 49 Pa.B. 2815. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (359060) to (395061).

Cross References

   This section cited in 52 Pa. Code §  56.340 (relating to winter termination procedures); 52 Pa. Code §  56.382 (relating to contents of the public utility company report); and 52 Pa. Code §  56.394 (relating to conference procedures).

§ 56.392. Commission informal complaint procedure.

 Upon the filing of an informal complaint, which shall be captioned as ‘‘(Complainant) v. (public utility),’’ Commission staff will immediately notify the public utility; review the dispute; and, within a reasonable period of time, issue to the public utility and the complaining party an informal report with findings and a decision. Parties may represent themselves or be represented by counsel or other person of their choice, and may bring witnesses to appear on their behalf. The reports will be in writing and a summary will be sent to the parties if a party requests it or if the Commission staff finds that a summary is necessary.

   (1)  Review techniques. Review will be by an appropriate means, including, but not limited to, public utility company reports, telephone calls, conferences, written statements, research, inquiry and investigation. Procedures will be designed to insure a fair and reasonable opportunity to present pertinent evidence and to challenge evidence submitted by the other party to the dispute, to examine a list of witnesses who will testify and documents, records, files, account data, records of meter tests and other material that the Commission staff will determine may be relevant to the issues, and to question witnesses appearing on behalf of other parties. Information and documents requested by Commission staff as part of the review process shall be provided by the public utility within 30 days of the request. If the complainant is without public utility service, or in other emergency situations as identified by Commission staff, the information requested by Commission staff shall be provided by the public utility within 5 business days of the request.

   (2)  Settlement. Prior to the issuance of an informal decision, Commission staff may facilitate discussions between the parties in an effort to settle the dispute. If a settlement is reached, Commission staff will confirm that all parties understand the terms of the settlement and document the informal complaint as closed.

   (3)  Resolution. Commission staff resolution of informal complaints is binding upon the parties unless formal proceedings are initiated under § §  56.401—56.404 (relating to formal complaints).

Authority

   The provisions of this §  56.392 amended under the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. § §  501, 1301, 1401—1419, 1501 and 1509.

Source

   The provisions of this §  56.392 amended May 31, 2019, effective June 1, 2019, 49 Pa.B. 2815. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (359061) to (359062).

Cross References

   This section cited in 52 Pa. Code §  56.340 (relating to winter termination procedures); and 52 Pa. Code §  56.394 (relating to conference procedures).

§ 56.393. Termination pending resolution of the dispute.

 In any case alleging unauthorized use of public utility service, as defined in §  56.252 (relating to definitions), or the customer’s failure to pay undisputed bills as required under §  56.411 (relating to duties of parties: disputing party’s duty to pay undisputed portion of bills; public utility’s duty to pay interest whenever overpayment found), a public utility may terminate service after giving proper notice in accordance with § §  56.331—56.338, whether or not a dispute is pending.

Authority

   The provisions of this §  56.393 amended under the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. § §  501, 1301, 1401—1419, 1501 and 1509.

Source

   The provisions of this §  56.393 amended May 31, 2019, effective June 1, 2019, 49 Pa.B. 2815. Immediately preceding text appears at serial page (359062).

Cross References

   This section cited in 52 Pa. Code §  56.340 (relating to winter termination procedures); and 52 Pa. Code §  56.394 (relating to conference procedures).

§ 56.394. Conference procedures.

 Conferences held under § §  56.391—56.393 (relating to informal complaint filing procedures; Commission informal complaint procedure; and termination pending resolution of the dispute) and this section will be informal and may be held by conference telephone call, when appropriate. If the parties are to be present, the conferences will take place within reasonable proximity to the situs of the complaint.

Cross References

   This section cited in 52 Pa. Code §  56.340 (relating to winter termination procedures).

FORMAL COMPLAINTS


§ 56.401. General rule.

 Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, formal complaint proceedings will proceed according to the rules and regulations of the Commission governing complaint proceedings.

Cross References

   This section cited in 52 Pa. Code §  56.340 (relating to winter termination procedures); and 52 Pa. Code §  56.392 (relating to Commission informal complaint procedure).

§ 56.402. Filing.

 (a)  A request for review of the decision of the Bureau of Consumer Services (BCS) shall be initiated in writing within 20 days of issuance.

 (b)  Upon receipt of a request for review of the decision of the BCS, the Secretary of the Commission will mail a formal complaint form to the requesting person.

 (c)  Within 30 days of the mailing of the formal complaint form, the party requesting review of the decision of the BCS shall file the completed complaint form with the Secretary.

 (d)  Upon the filing of a formal complaint within the 30-day period and not thereafter except for good cause shown, there will be an automatic stay of the informal complaint decision.

 (e)  The failure to request review of the BCS decision by filing a formal complaint within the 30-day period does not foreclose a party from filing a formal complaint at a later time except as otherwise may be provided in 66 Pa.C.S. (relating to Public Utility Code).

Cross References

   This section cited in 52 Pa. Code §  56.340 (relating to winter termination procedures); and 52 Pa. Code §  56.392 (relating to Commission informal complaint procedure).

§ 56.403. Review from informal complaint decisions of the Bureau of Consumer Services.

 (a)  Assignment. Review of informal complaint decisions will be heard de novo by an administrative law judge or special agent.

 (b)  Filing and docketing. A complaint will be filed and docketed as a formal Commission complaint, under § §  1.31—1.38 (relating to documentary filings).

 (c)  Captions. The parties to a review will be stated in the caption as they stood upon the record of the informal complaint proceeding. If the party requesting review is a public utility, the phrase ‘‘Complaint Appellant’’ will be added after its name.

 (d)  Hearings. Hearings conducted by an administrative law judge or a special agent will be held within a reasonable period of time after the filing of the answer. The parties may incorporate portions of the conference report or informal complaint decision that they shall agree upon.

 (e)  Formal complaint decision. The administrative law judge or special agent assigned to the formal complaint will issue a decision with the Commission within a reasonable period of time after the receipt of the transcribed testimony. Included in the decision will be a description of the matter, findings of fact, conclusions of law and other discussion and opinion as is appropriate.

 (f)  Commission review. The Commission will review the decision of the assigned administrative law judge or special agent, commit it to advisory staff for further analysis, remand it to an administrative law judge or special agent for further development of the record or issue a final order. The burden of proof for the formal complaint remains with the party who filed the informal complaint. For legal or policy issues raised by the public utility, the burden of proof for the formal complaint will be with the public utility raising the legal or policy issue.

Authority

   The provisions of this §  56.403 amended under the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. § §  501, 1301, 1401—1419, 1501 and 1509.

Source

   The provisions of this §  56.403 amended May 31, 2019, effective June 1, 2019, 49 Pa.B. 2815. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (359063) to (359064).

Cross References

   This section cited in 52 Pa. Code §  56.340 (relating to winter termination procedures); and 52 Pa. Code §  56.392 (relating to Commission informal complaint procedure).

§ 56.404. Ability to pay proceedings.

 (a)  Assignments. Requests for review of decisions of the Bureau of Consumer Services (BCS) and any other case in which the issue is solely ability to pay may be assigned to a special agent.

 (b)  Stay of informal complaint decision. Upon the filing of a formal complaint in a case seeking review from the decision of the BCS, there shall be an automatic stay of payment arrangements ordered in that decision, other than current bills not at issue. The public utility may request that the presiding officer remove the stay and order payment of amounts in the informal complaint decision. When current bills are not at issue, the customer shall be responsible for payment of current, undisputed bills pending issuance of a final Commission order.

 (c)  Hearings. The presiding officer will conduct hearings within a reasonable period after filing of the review and answer. If the presiding officer is a special agent, the special agent will have all powers of an administrative law judge.

   (1)  The presiding officer will attempt to hold hearings by telephone, unless one or more parties object. Hearings will be held after the filing of an answer.

   (2)  The presiding officer will hear the case de novo, but may request a stipulation of the parties as to undisputed facts.

   (3)  Hearings will be tape recorded and will not be transcribed, unless the parties request the use of a stenographer or a transcription of the tape or other circumstances warranting transcription exist. Unless objected to, parties may make their own tape recording of the proceedings, but the only official record shall be that made by the presiding officer.

 (d)  Proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law or briefs. The parties shall have the opportunity of submitting proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law or briefs to the presiding officer. Notice of intent to submit findings of fact and conclusions of law or briefs shall be given at the hearing and they shall be submitted within 10 days of the hearing.

 (e)  Initial decision. The presiding officer will render a written decision after the hearings or after the receipt of proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law or briefs, if they are filed. The initial decision will be in writing and contain a brief description of the matter, findings of fact and conclusions of law. The initial decision will be subject to the filing of exceptions under the procedures in Chapters 1 and 5 (relating to rules of administrative practice and procedure; and formal proceedings).

Authority

   The provisions of this §  56.404 amended under the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. § §  501, 1301, 1401—1419, 1501 and 1509.

Source

   The provisions of this §  56.404 amended May 31, 2019, effective June 1, 2019, 49 Pa.B. 2815. Immediately preceding text appears at serial page (359064).

Cross References

   This section cited in 52 Pa. Code §  56.392 (relating to Commission informal complaint procedure).

PAYMENT OF BILLS PENDING RESOLUTION OF
DISPUTES AND COMPLAINTS


§ 56.411. Duties of parties: disputing party’s duty to pay undisputed portion of bills; public utility’s duty to pay interest whenever overpayment found.

 Pending resolution of a dispute, including a termination dispute, the disputing party shall be required to pay the undisputed portion of bills, as described in this section.

   (1)  Pending informal complaint. Pending the outcome of an informal complaint, the disputing party shall be obligated to pay that portion of a bill which is not honestly disputed. An amount ultimately determined, by the parties or the Commission, to have been validly due but not paid may be paid with interest at the tariff rate filed under §  56.272 (relating to accrual of late payment charges) except when interest charges have been reduced or eliminated by the parties or the Commission to facilitate payment by the disputing party.

   (2)  Pending formal complaint. Prior to the hearing on a formal complaint or prior to the issuance of a Commission order when no hearing is to be held in a formal complaint proceeding, the customer shall be required to pay that amount which the consumer services representative determines is not disputed.

   (3)  Overpayments reimbursed with interest. An amount ultimately determined to have been overpaid by the disputing party shall be reimbursed with interest at the tariff rate filed under §  56.272.

   (4)  Effect of offer of payment. An offer by a customer to pay all or any portion of a bill may not be deemed a waiver of a right to reimbursement for amounts subsequently deemed, by the parties or the Commission, to have been overpaid.

   (5)  Effect of acceptance of partial payment. The acceptance by a public utility of a partial payment for a bill pending final outcome of a dispute may not be deemed an accord and satisfaction or waiver of the right of the public utility to payment in full as subsequently agreed to by the parties or decided by the Commission.

Authority

   The provisions of this §  56.411 amended under the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. § §  501, 1301, 1401—1419, 1501 and 1509.

Source

   The provisions of this §  56.411 amended May 31, 2019, effective June 1, 2019, 49 Pa.B. 2815. Immediately preceding text appears at serial page (359065).

Cross References

   This section cited in 52 Pa. Code §  56.262 (relating to meter reading; estimated billing; customer readings); and 52 Pa. Code §  56.393 (relating to termination pending resolution of the dispute).



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