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Recent Maine Legislation Triggers Amendment to PUC Consumer Protection Rules

Last year, the Maine Legislature enacted three bills requiring amendments to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Rules in Ch. 815: Consumer Protection Standards for Electric and Gas Transmission and Distribution (T&D) Utilities. Last month, on February 5, 2020, the PUC issued an Order amending Ch. 815, effective February 23, 2020.

The three recent pieces of legislation calling for Ch. 815 amendments, primarily to section 8, were LDs 68, 581, and 1003. LDs 581 and 1003 increased the usage data, rate component pricing and customer assistance information provided with customer billing statements. LD 68 expanded the PUC’s and utilities’ recordkeeping obligations regarding customer complaints or disputes.

  1. LD 581 increases the comparative usage data printed on customer bills.
    1. As amended, section 8(E) requires 24 months, instead of 13 months, of data on average monthly kWh usage (“comparative usage data”) on customer bills.
    2. The amendment clarifies that the increased timeframe for comparative usage data does not apply to gas utilities, which still must provide 13 months of comparative usage data.
  2. LD 1003 adds information on customer bills regarding PUC customer assistance and historical rates, and addresses concerns regarding misleading or inaccurate billing statements.
    1. As amended, section 8(C)(13) requires both investor-owned T&D and gas utility customers’ bills to include the telephone number of the PUC’s customer assistance division and a summary of its services. The Order directs utilities to submit, within 60 days, the consumer assistance contact and summary of services language proposed for inclusion on customer bills.
    2. The amended section 8(D), “Additional Billing Requirements for investor-owned transmission and distribution utilities (IOU),” requires IOU T&D utilities to annually provide (before April 1) a chart with a ten-year history of rate component pricing, including:
      1. the price of rate components for each customer class*;
      2. at a minimum, transmission, distribution, and standard offer rate components for each class (may include others, e.g., stranded costs); and
      3. the total percentage change for each rate component over the ten years.

*Of further note, section 2(Q) provides a newly defined class of commercial customer – “medium commercial customer” – for the purposes of the ten-year rate component chart.

    1. The PUC declined LD 1003’s suggestion to create an additional requirement that IOU T&Ds provide corrected billing statements to customers who received inaccurate bills. The PUC Order stated that the current Rules—particularly Section 8’s mandate that all utilities provide customers with written notification upon discovery of a bill error—adequately addressed the bill’s concern.
  1. LD 68 amended Ch. 815’s requirements for utility and PUC recordkeeping in section 13:
    1. Section 13(E) now requires all utilities to keep records of disputes for ten years from the date of their resolution—instead of for two years, as previously required.
    2. LD 68 also requires amendment of Ch. 110 to expand the types of records of customer disputes kept by the PUC and the retention time for such records. The amendment of Ch. 110 will be the subject of a future proceeding.

If you have questions about these new rules, please contact a member of Verrill’s Energy Group.

Topics: Electricity, Maine Public Utilities Commission, Natural Gas, Utilities