R12‑11   DISCONNECTION OF RESIDENTIAL CUSTOMER'S ELECTRIC SERVICE

(a)  The date after which the bill is due, or the past due after date, shall be disclosed on the bill and shall not be less than twenty-five (25) days after the billing date. Payment within this twenty-five day period will either maintain or count toward improvement of the customer's credit code classification. Payment of a bill after the specified due date could result in the lowering of a customer's credit code relating to one which permits the utility to disconnect on an earlier date.

(b)  For purposes of this rule, payment shall be defined as delivery of the amount due to a company business office or designated payment agency during regular business hours by 5:00 p.m. on the twenty-fifth (25th) day, unless such day is a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday in which event the last day for payment runs until the end of the next day which is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday.

(c)  Those electric customers from whom deposits are required under the provisions of Commission Rules R12-2 or R12-3 and who receive their largest bills seasonally (such as customers who use electricity for heating) may be considered seasonal customers in determining the amount of deposit under Rule R12-4. The deposits collectible from such customers shall not exceed one-half (1/2) of the estimated charge for service for the season involved. For purposes of this provision the heating season shall be the calendar months October through March.

(d)  Each electric utility shall file tariffs with the Commission to impose charges, not to exceed the charges allowed by G.S. 25-3-506, for checks tendered on a customer's account and returned for insufficient funds. This charge shall apply regardless of when the check is tendered.

(e)  Each electric utility, through its meter reader, office, or designated payment agency is authorized to collect payment by cash or check for bills past due and in arrears, and for current bills once the meter reader has left the office with a list of customers whose service is to be disconnected, unless the day on which the meter reader has left the office with such list is prior to the third day preceding the past due date of the current bill of any customer whose service is to be disconnected, in which case the utility is authorized only to collect payment for bills past due and in arrears.

"Current bill" is defined as a bill rendered but not past due. "Bill in arrears" is defined as a bill rendered and past due.

(f)  Each electric utility operating under the jurisdiction of the North Carolina Utilities Commission shall immediately revise, where necessary, its billing procedures to conform to the following approximate schedules:

A.            Customers beyond their first twelve months of service with "good credit established."

 

 

Approximate

Billing Cycle

Day

 

 

 

Standard Procedure

 

1

 

Meter read.

 

5

 

Bill mailed.

 

31

 

Meter read.

 

35

 

Second bill mailed, showing 1-month prior account balance and current bill.

 

61

 

Meter read.

 

65

 

Third bill mailed with a reminder notice.

 

79

 

Disconnect notices prepared in conformity with subsection (l) of this rule are reviewed by the utility before mailing to customers.  Seven days allowed to make credit arrangements.

 

89

 

Review of accounts to determine if customer has taken necessary action to avoid disconnection. Supervisory approval given to final disconnect orders.

 

91

 

Meter read and the field representative makes the effort to notify the customer, receive payment or defer disconnection in accordance with Rule R12-11(m)(2), make satisfactory credit arrangements, agree to defer action because of death or illness, or disconnects.  Field representative may require payment of all past due portions of bill, consistent with the rules set forth above.  Customer has immediate recourse to the utility for reconnection action.

 

B.            All customers within their first twelve months of service and customers beyond their first twelve months of service with "good credit not established" will have delinquency started on the 35th rather than the 65th day. The billing schedule will then be approximately as follows:

 

 

Approximate

Billing Cycle

Day

 

 

Standard Procedure

 

1

 

Meter read.

 

5

 

Bill mailed.

 

31

 

Meter read.

 

35

 

Second bill mailed, showing 1-month prior account balance and current bill, and with a reminder notice.

 

49

 

Disconnect notices prepared in conformity with subsection (l) of this rule are reviewed by the utility before mailing to customers.  Seven days allowed to make credit arrangements.

 

59

 

Review of accounts to determine if customer has taken necessary action to avoid disconnection.  Supervisory approval given to final disconnect orders.

 

61

 

Meter read and the field representative makes the effort to notify the customer, receive payment or defer disconnection in accordance with Rule R12-11(m)(2), make satisfactory credit arrangements, agree to defer action because of death or illness, or disconnects.  Field representative may require payment of all past due portions of bill, consistent with the rules set forth above.  Customer has immediate recourse to the utility for reconnection action.

 

(g)  The delinquency procedures for these customers will be as described above. This procedure ensures that no disconnect proceeding will be instituted prior to issuance of a second month's bill.

(h)  No disconnects will be made prior to their being personally reviewed and ordered by a supervisor.

(i)  The disconnect notice to the customer will state that the utility can be contacted within a 7-day period to discuss credit arrangements if payment of the bill is not possible.

(j)  Each electric utility shall submit its system of residential customer credit code classification to the Commission for approval. With regard further to the classifications "good credit established" and "good credit not established," no customer shall be classified at a level below "good credit not established."

(k)  Following approval by the Commission, each electric utility using a system of credit codes to classify its customers shall advise each customer of the method by which the code operates, the customer's present classification in the credit code, and at any time when a customer's classification changes.

(l)  Electric service to a residential customer shall not be terminated for nonpayment of a delinquent account until the utility has given such customer at least 10 days' written notice that his service is subject to termination. This notice of proposed termination shall, at a minimum, contain the following information:

(1)           A clear explanation of the reasons which underlie the proposed termination.

(2)           The date of the proposed termina­tion, which shall not be less than 10 days from the date of issuance of such notice.

(3)           A statement advising the customer that electric service will not be terminated if, prior to the proposed termination date, the customer is able to establish that he is unable to pay his account in full and he agrees to enter into a reasonable installment agreement with the utility designed to bring the account into balance not later than six months from the date of such agreement. Approved finance charges will apply to the balance in arrears. This installment agree­ment shall encompass both the sum of the outstanding balance and also the estimated charges for electric usage which is reasonably projected to occur during the period of the agreement. Estimated charges shall be based upon an analysis of the customer's past usage.

(4)           Statements advising the customer that he should first contact the utility with any questions he may have regarding his bill and that in cases of dispute, a proposed termination action may thereafter be appealed informally to the Commission either by calling the Public Staff-North Carolina Utilities Commission, Consumer Services Division at (919) 733-9277 or by appearing in person or by writing the Public Staff-North Carolina Utilities Commission, Consumer Services Divi­sion, 4326 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4326.

(5)           A statement advising the customer that he may desire to call his local social service agency to determine what federal, state, or private assistance may be available.

(6)           With respect to bills rendered between November 1 and March 31 of every year and in conformity with the policy considerations expressed by Congress in the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) of 1978, the notice of proposed termination shall also contain a statement that no termination shall take place without the express approval of the Commission if the customer can establish all of the following:

(a)           That a member of the customer's household is either handicapped or elderly (65 years of age or older), or both.

(b)           That the customer is unable to pay for such service in full or in accordance with subsection (l)(3) of this rule.

(c)           That the household is certified by the local social service office which administers the Energy Crisis Assistance Program or other similar programs as being eligible (whether funds are then available or not) to receive assistance under such programs.

(m)          Personal Contact Prior to Termination.

(1)           At least 24 hours prior to a proposed service termination, the utility shall, in good faith, attempt to contact a customer to whom a written disconnect notice has been mailed (as well as any third party who may have been designated by the customer to receive notice pursuant to subsection (n) of this rule), either by telephone or by visit to the customer's premises. The purpose of this personal contact shall be to attempt to personally inform the customer and his designated representative that termination of service is imminent, and to fully explain all alternatives to termination which may be available to the customer under this rule.

(2)           Immediately prior to the actual termination of service, the utility's representative shall attempt to personally contact the customer on the premises. At that time, the utility's representative shall either receive payment from the customer, or postpone termination for another 24 hours if the customer is prepared to pay but the utility has determined that its representatives should not be required to accept payments from customers on the premises; make satisfactory credit arrangements; agree to postpone termination during the period November 1 to March 31 if the customer qualifies for postponement under subsection (l)(6) of this rule; or, in the absence of any of the arrangements or circumstances listed above, terminate service. If personal contact cannot be made by the utility, a notice indicating that service has been terminated shall be left in a conspicuous place at the residence where such service was terminated. Such notice shall specify that the customer may have immediate recourse to the utility in order to arrange for reconnection of service.

(3)           The utility shall fully document its efforts under this subsection to personally contact the customer and any designated third party representative.

(n)  Each electric utility shall offer its residential customers the opportunity to designate a third party to receive a copy of any proposed termination notice which may be mailed to the customer. Each residential customer shall be given notification of this option at the time service is initiated and at least once annually thereafter. Notice of the availability of this option shall be given in writing, either by mailing a copy of such notice as a bill insert or by means of a separate mailing, to all residential customers. Such notice shall clearly indicate that this duplicate notification process will not obligate the third party to pay the customer's bill.

(o)  Informal Appeal of Termination Action.

(1)           Any residential customer may informally appeal the decision of a utility to terminate service by notifying the Consumer Services Division of the Public Staff-North Carolina Utilities Commission. Such notification may be made by the customer either in person, in writing, or by telephone.

(2)           Upon receipt of any such appeal, the Consumer Services Division of the Public Staff shall immediately notify the utility that such an informal appeal has been filed. If service has not been terminated as of the time an appeal is filed, the utility shall not terminate the customer's service without securing express approval from the Commission or its designated representative. If service has already been terminated by the time the customer files his appeal with the Public Staff, the Commission may order the utility to restore service upon such terms as are deemed just and reasonable pending resolution of the appeal.

(3)           If the matter cannot be resolved informally, the customer shall then have the right to file a formal complaint with the Commission pursuant to Rule R1-9 and to request a hearing thereon.

(p)  Residential electric service shall not be terminated on Fridays, on weekends, on state or federal holidays, or on days before state or federal holidays. If a disconnection occurs, the customer shall have immediate recourse to the utility regardless of the time of day.

(q)  Each electric utility shall establish an internal procedure whereby the utility will endeavor to identify by a special code a customer whose household is known to have an individual residing therein who is either chronically or seriously ill, handicapped, or on a life support system. The purpose of assigning such code shall be to identify that account for careful handling whenever service to such account becomes subject to termination as a result of non­payment of a delinquent bill.

(r)  Nothing in this rule shall preclude an electric utility from exercising reasonable discretion in waiving or extending the times provided herein pertaining to termination of service, particularly when such waiver or extension would result in the prevention of undue hardship in those cases where termination of service would be especially dangerous to health or where the customer or a member of the customer's household is elderly or handicapped.

(NCUC Docket Nos. M‑100, Sub 28, M‑100, Sub 61, 11/14/79; NCUC Docket Nos. M‑100, Sub 28, M‑100, Sub 61, 11/20/79; NCUC Docket Nos. M-100, Sub 28A, M-100, Sub 61A, 6/18/98; NCUC Docket No. M-100, Sub 128, 04/10/00.)