Archive for Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Prepare for the winter ahead

November 19, 2008

The Cold Weather Rule, which sets conditions for consumers who are having difficulty paying their bill to maintain or re-establish utility service during the winter, started Saturday, Nov. 1, and runs through March 31, 2009.

The rule, instituted by the Kansas Corporation Commission, generally prohibits disconnection of residential service during extremely cold periods and requires that utility companies offer a 12-month payment plan for past due and current bills to allow customers to maintain or re-establish service.

Important conditions of the rule are:

• Service disconnections are prohibited when the temperature is forecast to fall below 35 degrees during the next 24 hours.

• There must be a 48-hour forecast of temperatures of 35 degrees or above before the utility may begin disconnection procedures. The utility must contact the customer by telephone or personal visit to the residence 24 hours before disconnecting service.

• To qualify for the Cold Weather Rule payment plan, consumers must inform the utility they can’t pay their bill in full.

• Customers must pay one-twelfth of the total owed the company to maintain or restore service under the rule. After making the initial payment the customer must agree to pay the remaining balance in equal amounts over the next 11 months, in addition to the current monthly bill.

• Consumers who have broken previous payment agreements or defaulted on an agreement during the cold weather period may re-qualify by paying the utility one-twelfth of the total amount owed for consumption, the full amount of any disconnection or reconnection fees, plus any applicable deposit, and agreeing to pay the remaining balance over the next 11 months.

• The Cold Weather Rule applies to all residential customers of electric and natural gas utility companies under the KCC’s jurisdiction.

Consumers need to take action now to prepare for winter gas-heating bills. Electric and natural-gas energy conservation and overall reduction of consumption can be achieved by setting the thermostat at a reasonable level, assuring that heating equipment is in good working order, caulking and weather-stripping windows and doorways and insulating exterior walls and spaces. Consumers may also want to consider arranging for an average or budget payment plan, which levels the monthly bill amount over a 12-month period.

For additional information on the Cold Weather Rule, call your local utility company or the Kansas Corporation Commission’s Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection at 1-800-662-0027.

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