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Texas Staff File Strawman Which Would Eliminate Requirement For REPs To Offer Deferred/Level Payment Plans, Deposit Installments, And Waived Late Fees To Certain Low-Income Customers

Staff Asks Whether REPs Should Be Required To Send Bill Inserts Concerning Whether REP Does, Or Does Not, Offer Low-Income Assistance Programs


August 17, 2017

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Copyright 2010-17 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • ring@energychoicematters.com

Staff of the Public Utility Commission of Texas have filed a strawman proposal which would eliminate several customer protections currently in the substantive rules for customers who were eligible for the prior Lite-Up Texas discount program (funded by the defunct System Benefit Fund)

The strawman would delete language which currently prohibits REPs from charging a late fee penalty to, "customers receiving a low-income discount pursuant to the Public Utility Regulatory Act (PURA) §39.903(h)."

The strawman would delete the requirement for REPs to offer a deferred payment plan to, "customers receiving the LITE-UP discount pursuant to §25.454 of this title," for bills that become due in July, August, or September, or certain winters months in which a qualifing extreme weather emergency had been declared.

The strawman would also delete the requirement for REPs to offer Lite-Up customers a level payment plan.

The strawman would specifically strike from the rules the language stating that, "A REP shall make a level or average payment plan available to a residential customer receiving a rate reduction pursuant to §25.454 of this title (relating to Rate Reduction Program), even if the customer is delinquent in payment to the REP."

The strawman would delete the requirement for REPs to allow Lite-Up customers to pay deposits in installments.

The strawman would specifically strike from the rules the language stating that, "If a customer or applicant qualifies for the rate reduction program under §25.454 of this title (relating to Rate Reduction Program), then such customer or applicant shall be eligible to pay any deposit that exceeds $50 in two equal installments," and associated language concerning this requirement

The strawman would delete from the POLR rules the requirement for POLRs to provide, "Benefits for low income customers as provided for under PURA §39.903 relating to the System Benefit Fund."

The strawman would also delete, with respect to distributing proceeds from a defaulting REP's letter of credit during a mass transition, the current first priority that is given to allocating such funds to POLR deposit assistance for Lite-Up customers.

The strawman would also delete in their entirety Subst. R. § 25.451, Administration of the System Benefit Account, § 25.454, Rate Reduction Program, and § 25.455, One-Time Bill Payment Assistance Program, as well as making related changes to other rules to remove references to the SBF or rate reduction programs

Staff requested comment on whether REPs should be subject to reporting requirements concerning any low-income programs they offer on their own volition, and whether REPs should be required to inform customers via bill insert if REPs offer, or do not offer, such low-income assistance programs

Staff specifically sought comment on the following:

1. Should Retail Electric Providers (REPs) that opt-in to request a list of low-income customers from the Low-Income Discount Administrator (LIDA) be required to report to the Commission on an annual basis the REP's utilization of such a list, in particular with respect to any bill assistance programs, discounts, or other benefits the REP may offer? Please provide proposed language, and indicate any rules that would be affected.

2. Should REPs that do not opt-in to request a list of low-income customers from the LIDA be required to report to the Commission on an annual basis the REP's available bill assistance programs, discounts, or other benefits the REP may offer? Please provide proposed language, and indicate any rules that would be affected.

3. Should all REPs be required to provide notice to their customers, via bill inserts on a regular basis, whether or not the REP offers bill assistance programs, discounts, or other benefits for their customers? Please provide proposed language, and indicate any rules that would be affected.

Project 47343

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