Directs the public service commission to undertake a study of consumer protections adopted by electric corporations and utilities; includes reporting on the adequacy of the public service commission's assistance to customers facing disconnection of utility service.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to direct the public service commission to undertake a study of consumer protections adopted by electric corporations and utilities
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: To place a temporary moratorium on electric, gas or steam service terminations to residential customers, until the Public Service Commission (PSC) completes a review of existing consumer protection policies. The review will evaluate the current policies' effectiveness in addressing consumer issues and protecting consumer welfare.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: The legislation directs the PSC to complete a report on the effectiveness of existing consumer protection policies by November 15, 2012. The report must include analyses on the following:
1) the effectiveness of current utility procedures for notifying customers in arrears on utility charges of how they may avoid termination of their services. This analysis must include an assessment on the availability of deferred payment agreements;
2) the adequacy of the PSC's assistance to customers, including an analysis of the commission's effectiveness in negotiating deferred payment agreements with utilities. The PSC will also be required to collect and include in its report certain statistics pertaining to the geographic locations and assistance statuses of customers seeking to connect service or avoid termination, and statistics pertaining to the PSC shut off hotline;
The PSC must seek comments from utilities, municipalities, consumer advocates and the public. The PSC may use these comments as bases for its evaluation on existing consumer protection policies.
The report must be submitted to the governor, temporary president of the senate, speaker of the assembly, chair of the senate committee on energy and telecommunications and chair of the assembly committee on energy by November 15th, 2012. The report must also be posted online. If the PSC fails to complete its review by the required date, utilities will be prohibited from terminating electric, gas or steam service between December 14, 2012 and March 31, 2013, or until the PSC completes its review. The bill would not preclude utilities from charging customers for electric, gas or steam services during the moratorium period.
JUSTIFICATION: Many utilities terminate many consumers' electric, gas or Steam service during winter months. Terminations during New York's cold winter months cause significant discomfort to those targeted by the terminations, and create significant health and safety risks. The utilities' copious winter terminations suggest that existing consumer protection policies are inadequate. Until the PSC identifies and suggests remedies for these inadequacies, New York's consumers remain
vulnerable to potentially unjustified or unreasonable winter service terminations.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: New Bill.
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS: None.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect immediately.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 5696--A 2011-2012 Regular Sessions IN SENATE June 10, 2011 ___________Introduced by Sen. AVELLA -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Energy and Telecommuni- cations -- committee discharged, bill amended, ordered reprinted as amended and recommitted to said committee AN ACT to direct the public service commission to undertake a study of consumer protections adopted by electric corporations and utilities THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. The New York State public service commission shall under- take an immediate study of consumer protections adopted by electric corporations and municipalities ("utilities") pursuant to article 2 of the public service law and provide a report to the governor, the tempo- rary president of the senate, the speaker of the assembly, the chair of the senate committee on energy and telecommunications and the chair of the assembly committee on energy. Such report shall include an analysis of the effectiveness of current utility procedures for notifying custom- ers in arrears on utility charges of how they may avoid termination of electric, gas or steam service, including the availability of deferred payment agreements. In addition, such report shall review the adequacy of the commission's assistance to customers negotiating deferred payment agreements with utilities in lieu of disconnection of service including the number of deferred payment plans by utility service territory; the number of incidences, if any, in which utilities have required more than the lawfully allowed level of down payments or deferred payments from customers seeking to connect service or avoid disconnection; the effec- tiveness and availability of the commission's shutoff hotline in receiv- ing calls from customers facing termination of electric, gas and steam service; the call volume to such hotline in each utility service terri- tory; the monthly number of electric and natural gas customers who previously received utility bill assistance from the Home Energy Assist- ance Program whose service was terminated for bill collection purposesEXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD11689-02-1 S. 5696--A 2
in each utility service area in the previous calendar year, provided further that the commission shall require each utility provide such information while maintaining customer confidentiality; and any proposed legislative remedies necessary to increase customer awareness of such hotline. The report shall be made available to the public on the commis- sion's website. S 2. The New York State public service commission shall seek comments from utilities, municipalities, consumer advocates and the public and may include in the report recommendations to improve existing consumer protection policies. S 3. If the study pursuant to section one of this act is not received by November 15, 2012, the commission shall institute a moratorium preventing utility corporations from terminating electric, gas or steam service to any residential customer in arrears with whom it has entered into an agreement for the provision of such services. The moratorium shall last for the period beginning December 1, 2012 and ending on March 31, 2013. Nothing in this act shall be construed to prevent a utility corporation from charging customers for electric, gas or steam service or from offering a deferred payment agreement for the period beginning December 1, 2012 and ending on March 31, 2013. S 4. This act shall take effect immediately.