Texas PUC Staffer Skeptical Of Eliminating Mandate That REPs Offer Late Payment Fee Waivers, Deposit Installments To Low-Income Customers
November 17, 2015 Email This Story Copyright 2010-15 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
A Texas PUC Staffer leading a workshop on adopting new eligibility criteria to identify low-income customers eligible for late payment fee waivers and deposit installments in light of the existing criteria, eligibility for the SBF, being rendered inapplicable with the expiration of the SBF questioned arguments from certain retail electric providers that the late payment fee waivers and deposit installments should no longer be mandatory.
In response to REP comments at the workshop, Julia Harvey, a Staff member in the PUCT's Competitive Markets Division and the project lead, said that, "I'm not sure that the free hand of competition always protects the most vulnerable customers."
Harvey also stressed concerning the project that, "we haven't pre-supposed any particular outcome; we're trying to gather information for the Commissioners."
A strawman draft would retain the mandate, but in light of the elimination of the SBF program, change the eligibility requirements such that customers would qualify for the electricity late payment fee waivers and deposit installments by meeting the eligibility criteria for the telecom Lifeline program
However, due to differences in how customers are identified for each program, the strawman's use of the Lifeline list would result in the number of customers eligible for the low-income benefits being reduced by about 400,000 customers (from 540,000 to 160,000). While some of the reduction results from different criteria used for each program, a portion of the reduction apparently also results not from customers no longer being eligible, but a mismatch between how customers are identified on each respective list (with one list relying on one data point, such as customer account name, with the other relying on another, such as service address) and the inability to exactly match customers on the SBF list to the Lifeline list