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Comment: There seems to be a common conception that Utilities (Power
companies like PG&E) can not turn your power off if there is an infant
living at the house. I'm talking about turning off the power for a
customer who doesn't pay his/her bills.

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Lunasa
Jingle Bell Hock


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Most power companies do have rules around when they will and won't cut off power, but they don't make them public. In the company I worked for they wouldn't cut off power during the winter (about November to March) or if there was necessary medical equipment in the house. These were not publicly known rules though. They would send out 'final notices' throughout the year except for about 3/4 weeks around Christmas. AFAIK there was no rule about infants.

I met a guy from a power company in Bermuda and the were shocked how rarely we turned off someone's power. With his company you'd be disconnected in about a week if the bill wasn't paid. With our company you could be months, and you'd get a lot of letters and phone calls first. It was funny the number of people who'd be shocked though when they were told 'we're coming on Monday to turn off your power'.

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Loyhargil
We Three Blings


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It can depend on the jurisdiction and the company's tariffs, to an extent. I'm not familiar with other states, but I know in Kansas, I have not seen an "infant" provision in any utility's tariffs. But electric companies do have provisions for people dependent on electricity to run medical equipement, etc. I don't know the exact steps off hand, but you have to medically verify your condition and file with the company ahead of time so it knows.

Also, most states have some sort of "Cold Weather Rule," sometimes put in place by legislation, sometimes by the local public utility commission. In Kansas, we have a Cold Weather Rule established by our public utility commission that runs from November 1 through April 1 every year. It's not an out-and-out ban on shut offs, though. It's temperature-dependent. If the weather is going to be below 35 degrees for the next 48 hours, no shut offs. If it's 35 degrees or above, it's allowed. There are other caveats to that of course.

Usually, while these rules are out there, the company can always choose on its own to just not shut anyone off if it wants to, for policy reasons or whatever. While the companies cannot usually be any harsher than the rules allow, there's generally no penalty for the companies being NICER than the rules allow.

Edited because I confused March with April. *smacks self upside head*

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Rehcsif
We Three Blings


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In Minnesota anyway, it is quite illegal (by state law) to cut off the heat of any customer during the cold season -- infant or no infant.

Being law, these are quite public, not just mythical corporate policy...

-Tim

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Four Kitties
Layaway in a Manger


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Massachusetts also has laws on the books about utility cut-offs of gas and electric service.

- Utility bills cannot be due sooner than 45 days after the bill is received (not sent, received).

- The utility companies cannot cut off service for any reason, including failure to pay, between November 15 and April 15 (for electricity) or between November 15 and May 1 (for gas).

- The utility companies cannot cut off service if everyone in the household is over 65.

- The utility companies cannot cut off service if they have been notified that someone in the household is seriously ill and the household meets income eligibility requirements. They cannot cut off service while they are waiting proof of illness or income eligibility.

- The utility companies cannot cut off service if they have been notified there is a child in the house under 12 months old and the household meets income eligility requirements. They cannot cut off service while they are waiting for proof of income eligibility.

- The utility companies cannot cut off service or refuse to restore service because you have declared bankruptcy (although they can, in that instance, require a deposit for new service).

- The utility companies can only disconnect service Monday through Thursday, and only then if the shut-off date is not a holiday or the day before a holiday.

- Utility companies cannot cut off service because you are disputing your bill or a portion of your bill.

In addition to these very public laws (more information at the Attorney General's website), individual companies have their own assistance programs, often including lower rate structures, for people who qualify based on age, income, or disability.

Four Kitties

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InfraPurple
The First USA Noel


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From what I understand in Kansas as well, if you're on a pay agreement and break it, they can shut you off regardless of the tempurature outside.

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While I wasn't falling down or anything, gravity and I did have an interesting relationship for a short time. - Purple Iguana

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Four Kitties
Layaway in a Manger


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quote:
Originally posted by Turner727:
From what I understand in Kansas as well, if you're on a pay agreement and break it, they can shut you off regardless of the tempurature outside.

Incorrect.
quote:
Kansas utilities are also subject to the Cold Weather Rule (see description below). During the time the rule is in effect, from November 1 through March 31, electric or natural gas service may not be cut off, even if a customer cannot pay the bill in full....

The Cold Weather Rule will be in effect every year between November 1 and March 31. This means that service disconnections will not be made when the local National Weather Service forecasts the temperature to drop below 35 degrees or to be in the mid-30s or colder within the following 48-hour period.

Four Kitties

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If swimming is so good for your figure, how do you explain whales?

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Loyhargil
We Three Blings


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We actually conducted a proceeding in Kansas that ran from 2001 to 2002 (and a follow-up in 2003) where the idea of a completely moratorium on shut-offs during that period was considered during round tables and ultimately rejected.

Of course, we discussed several different plans at that time - an incremental increase of initial payment every time someone defaulted on a payment plan, working in income requirements, a wide variety of possibilities.

Ultimately, giving how taxing such plans would be on the local charities, and given our regulatory scheme and the Kansas Corporation Commission's powers (which don't extend to financial discrimination unless explicitly allowed by statute), we stayed with our regular plan, with some updates to clean up things that hadn't been functioning quite as planned in the past.

But in effect, we've had the same plan in place since the early 80's. Four Kitties' quote sums it up pretty nicely.

If anyone's interested, here's the link.

http://www.kcc.state.ks.us/pi/cwr_english.htm

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Wild.Otaku
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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From what I understand for at least the St. Louis area (it might be statewide), the cold weather rule for AmerenUE is November 1 to March 31. Unfortunately Ameren's website is good at not giving any sort of information other than call them.

The same rule is in effect for Laclede Gas, but I don't speak of them for they are evil. *nodnod*

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Randa Roo
Deck the Malls


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Well, I know that my electric company, it being a Cooperative, not a city utility company, is not bound by the cold weather rule, and they can shut you off whenever they damned well please. (I know from first hand experience, going several rounds with them last winter.) And, in Missouri, if you are on a payment agreement (at least with the Co-op) and you break it, they can shut you off if they so choose, cold weather or no. You've not lived until you've woken up and can see your breath in your bedroom! [Eek!]

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Gale
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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Austin city council often invokes a no-cut-off rule, not during the cold months, but during the hot months. People (especially old people and infants) have literally baked to death in July & August. Most of us have gas heat anyway.
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Four Kitties
Layaway in a Manger


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Gayle, when you say "gas heat" what kind of gas? When we in New England say "gas heat" we mean natural gas that is piped to our homes in the same way our water is.

And Randa Roo, none of my utility companies are municipal (except water & sewer), but it doesn't matter. State law says they can't cut you off in the winter, period. Missouri's rules are a little different, but your state also has a Cold Weather Rule:
quote:
The Cold Weather Rule also contains a temperature provision. A utility company cannot shut off service on a day when the National Weather Service has issued a local forecast between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., for the following 24 hours, predicting the temperature will drop below 30 degrees.
Four Kitties

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If swimming is so good for your figure, how do you explain whales?

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BeachLife
The Bills of St. Mary's


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quote:
Originally posted by Four Kitties in the arborvitae:
Gayle, when you say "gas heat" what kind of gas? When we in New England say "gas heat" we mean natural gas that is piped to our homes in the same way our water is...

Four Kitties [/QUOTE]

In some parts of the country (and in more rural areas) gas heat comes from a propane tank. The gas company can't shut it off per se, but they can refuse to refill it.

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Confessions of a Dragon's scribe
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Randa Roo
Deck the Malls


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Electric co-ops are not required to adhere to the cold weather rule because they are not under the MO Public Service Commission jurisdiction. Actually, neither are municipally operated companies, or propane companies that deliver by truck, at least in Missouri.

From the MOPSC website

I think it's a totally sucky rule, but that's the way the cookie crumbles. My co-op is the only one in the area, and I have NO other option for electric service. Like it or lump it, basically. It blows.

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InfraPurple
The First USA Noel


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quote:
Originally posted by Four Kitties in the arborvitae:
quote:
Originally posted by Turner727:
From what I understand in Kansas as well, if you're on a pay agreement and break it, they can shut you off regardless of the tempurature outside.

Incorrect.
quote:
Kansas utilities are also subject to the Cold Weather Rule (see description below). During the time the rule is in effect, from November 1 through March 31, electric or natural gas service may not be cut off, even if a customer cannot pay the bill in full....

The Cold Weather Rule will be in effect every year between November 1 and March 31. This means that service disconnections will not be made when the local National Weather Service forecasts the temperature to drop below 35 degrees or to be in the mid-30s or colder within the following 48-hour period.

Four Kitties

Now, I can't seem to find any mention of it, but back in my poorer days, we were told if we didn't pony up the payment, regardless of having a pay arangement and the cold weather rule in effect, they can shut you down for that.

So while the cold weather rule is great and I'm all for it, my direct experience with the utility companies has shown me they can and will shut off your utility if you're in violation of the pay agreement during the cold weather season. Could this have been a way to get me to pay? Probably. But I'm pretty sure they can, if an agreement previously made is not kept.

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While I wasn't falling down or anything, gravity and I did have an interesting relationship for a short time. - Purple Iguana

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