JEFFERSON CITY—The Missouri Public Service Commission’s Cold Weather Rule, designed to help customers with heat-related utility bills, begins on November 1, 2015. The rule will remain in effect through March 31, 2016. The Cold Weather Rule has been a part of the Commission’s rules and regulations since 1977.
The Cold Weather Rule applies to natural gas and electric utilities under PSC jurisdiction that provide heat-related service. Municipally operated systems, cooperatives and those that provide propane delivered by truck are not under PSC jurisdiction.
“Costs for heating a home during the coldest months of the year can present a significant challenge for some families,” said PSC Chairman Daniel Hall. “The Cold Weather Rule is designed to help struggling consumers meet that challenge.”
The Cold Weather Rule:
- Prohibits the disconnection of heat-related service when the temperature is predicted to drop below 32 degrees during the following 24 hour period.
- Provides more lenient payment terms permitting reconnection of service for natural gas and/or electric customers.
- Prohibits the disconnection of registered elderly and disabled customers who meet certain income guidelines who make a minimum payment.
- Allows a customer to register with the utility if:
- 65 years of age or older;
- Disabled to the extent that the customer has filed with the utility a form submitted by a medical physician attesting that your household must have natural gas or electric utility service provided in the home to maintain life or health; or
- The customer has obtained a formal award letter issued from the federal government of disability benefits.
- Allows customers to budget payments over 12 months.
- May allow customers to extend payment of pre-existing arrears beyond 12 months.
- Does not require a deposit if payment agreement is kept.
- Requires that customers be notified by mail 10 days before the date the utility intends to shut off service; that an attempt be made to contact the customer within 96 hours before the shut off; that an attempt be made to contact the customer right before the shut off; that notice is left at the home when service has been shut off.
- Requires the customer be notified of possible financial help in paying the utility bill.
- Allows for the reconnection of service for less than the full amount owed.
If a customer is faced with a heat-related utility bill that they cannot pay in full, it is important that the customer:
- Contact the utility company.
- State an inability to pay the bill in full.
- Provide income information either by month or annual income.
- Make a minimum payment.
- Enter into a payment agreement.
It is important to note that in order to receive some of the benefits of the Cold Weather Rule; a customer must sign-up (register) with their heat-related company.
For more information on the PSC’s Cold Weather Rule, please see the Commission’s website at www.psc.mo.gov or call the Commission’s Consumer Services hotline at 1-800-392-4211. Consumers can also receive Cold Weather Rule information from their local natural gas or electric company.