Pennsylvania Code & Bulletin
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA

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52 Pa. Code § 69.251. Plain language—statement of policy.

POLICY STATEMENT ON PLAIN LANGUAGE
GUIDELINES


§ 69.251. Plain language—statement of policy.

 (a)  General. The Commission recommends that public utilities adopt the following guidelines for written material provided to residential customers. Each utility shall designate appropriately trained staff persons to serve as liaisons to the Bureau of Consumer Services regarding this policy statement. Companies shall conduct field tests, use consumer advisory panels or focus groups to prepare plain language materials for Commission review. The Bureau of Consumer Services will selectively review the materials prior to final company publication and mailing to residential customers.

   (1)  In preparing information, the utility shall include use of the following:

     (i)   Short sentences.

     (ii)   Active voice rather than passive voice.

     (iii)   Personal pronouns.

     (iv)   Definition of necessary terms that are technical and not commonly understood.

     (v)   Clear section headings which accurately describe the information that follows.

     (vi)   Separate listing of each condition of any agreement, offer or requirement.

     (vii)   Commonly understood words.

   (2)  The utility shall avoid the following practices:

     (i)   Technical, legal or utility terms not commonly understood.

     (ii)   Double negatives.

     (iii)   Abbreviations not commonly used.

     (iv)   Foreign words, except for information aimed at non-English speaking customers, or words with obsolete meanings.

 (b)  Visual guidelines. In addition to plain language, the Commission recommends that the utilities adopt the following visual guidelines for written materials provided to residential customers:

   (1)  Clear section headings which use bold face, italics, underlining or color to set them apart from the rest of the text.

   (2)  Ink that sharply contrasts with the paper.

   (3)  Spacing and margins which make materials easy to read.

   (4)  The use of both upper and lower case letters.

   (5)  The use of large typeface, at least 8 to 10 point type.

   (6)  Line length shall contain between 50 and 70 characters.

 (c)  Billing format. The billing formats shall comply with § §  56.15 and 64.14 (relating to billing information; and billing information). The Commission recommends that the company’s phone number for questions or complaints be clearly located on the bill. Plain language shall be used in the billing format as follows:

   (1)  Gas and electric utilities.

     (i)   A display of the unit price per kilowatt hour (KWH), therm, hundred cubic feet (CCF) or thousand cubic feet (MCF) in calculating charges, in addition to the total usage and charges due.

     (ii)   A bar graph displaying comparative energy use indicating whether the amount shown is actual or estimated.

     (iii)   Information regarding the average temperature during the periods under comparison.

     (iv)   Technical terms regularly displayed on the bill clearly defined, listed alphabetically and prominently located on the bill.

   (2)  Water utilities.

     (i)   Calculation and display of the unit price per gallon in addition to the total usage and charges due. This is not applicable to flat rate billing.

     (ii)   A bar graph displaying comparative water use for the preceding five quarters or for 13 months, depending on the billing period and whether the amount shown is actual or estimated. This is not applicable to flat rate billing.

     (iii)   Technical terms regularly displayed on the bill clearly defined, listed alphabetically and prominently located on the bill.

   (3)  Telephone utilities.

     (i)   Clearly separated charges for Basic, Nonbasic and Toll Services.

     (ii)   Discount time periods for local, measured telephone service clearly defined and prominently located on the bill.

     (iii)   Information directing the customer to the local exchange carrier’s discount toll rates within its directory.

     (iv)   Clear, concise billing free of redundant information with a limited number of pages.

     (v)   Billing for each interexchange carrier displayed on a separate page with the exception of alternative operator service providers. Billing for alternative operator service providers may be grouped on one or more pages. The alternative operator service should clearly be identified by company name.

     (vi)   Technical terms regularly displayed on the bill clearly defined, alphabetically listed and prominently located on the bill.

Source

   The provisions of this §  69.251 adopted May 29, 1992, effective June 29, 1992, 22 Pa.B. 2852.



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