Governor Corbett approved key changes last week to Pennsylvania’s Chapter 14, which regulates residential customer billing, collection, and termination procedures for utility services.
These changes will take effect on December 21st. The Pennsylvania Utility Law Project (PULP) has compiled a list of six key changes that could impact you and your clients!
1. Friday Terminations Eliminated
Assistance agents and legal services staff were previously unable to help residents reconnect their services through the weekend, exacerbating health problems and jeopardizing housing stability. Terminations may now only occur between Monday and Thursday, providing additional time for customers to access assistance and avoid a service shut-off.
2. Security Deposits for Customer Assistance Program (CAP) Participants Eliminated
A customer or applicant confirmed as eligible for a a customer assistance program can no longer be required to provide a cash deposit. This eliminates a barrier for low-income Pennsylvanians to receive utility services.
3. Requirements for Medical Certification Changed
The standard necessary for a medical certification now states that a customer must be seriously ill or “diagnosed with a medical condition which requires the continuation of service to treat the condition.” Previously, the qualification included those “afflicted with a medical condition which will be aggravated by the cessation of service.”
While PULP attorneys have received assurance that this change was not intended to narrow eligibility, we remain concerned that this new standard may raise the bar for medical certifications.
All advocates should be vigilant regarding how each utility treats medical certificate submissions. Please advise PULP Staff of any changes in procedure or interpretation that you encounter.
4. Electronic Notice of Termination
Notice of Termination can now be provided to customers through e-mail, text message, or other electronic forwarding if the customer consents to be contacted using these formats for the purpose of termination.
5. Utility Notification Responsibilities
Utility companies will be required to notify customers requesting payment arrangements about all universal service programs, and to refer those customers to the universal service program administrator for eligibility determination and enrollment.
6. Protection From Abuse (PFA) Exemption Expanded
Any court order of protection, including criminal protective orders, will be included in the Chapter 14 exemption for survivors of domestic violence. Previously, a PFA Order was required to be eligible for the exemption.
If you have questions about these changes, please contact PULP at firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-236-9486.