Md. PSC Staff On Customer Disconnection Under Supplier Consolidated Billing: Law Requires Delinquent Customers Be Returned To SOS
June 15, 2018 Email This Story Copyright 2010-17 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Karen Abbott • kabbott (at) energychoicematters.com
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Staff of the Maryland PSC submitted a brief in response to a PSC request for stakeholders' views on several legal questions concerning the ability of retail suppliers to order the disconnection of a customer's utility service under supplier consolidated billing.
Staff said that, "there is no express authority in the PUA [Public Utilities Article, Maryland Code], Title 20 of COMAR, or Commission case law that enables SCB providers to direct utilities to disconnect customers for non-payment of non-utility charges."
The PSC specifically asked, "Does the PUA require that any customer disconnected from retail supplier service be returned to utility-administered Standard Offer Service, irrespective of when or if the customer repays any outstanding obligations to the SCB provider that directed the customer's disconnection?"
In response, Staff said in its brief that, concerning electric customers, "it would appear that as a matter of law, retail electricity customers who become delinquent must be returned to SOS should the customer's retail supplier no longer wish to provide the customer retail service."
Staff said that, "Standard Offer Service ('SOS') and Sales Service ('SS') represent service by the provider of last resort ('POLR'), and a customer who cannot be served by a supplier must be given access to POLR service."
Staff said that, under PUA §7-507(e), "the Commission was expressly directed to adopt regulations that would establish provisions providing to the referral of a delinquent account by an electricity supplier to the standard offer service under PUA §7-510(c)."
Staff said that, under PUA §7-510(c)(2)(vi) a customer is considered to have selected SOS if the customer has been denied service or referred to the standard offer service by an electricity supplier in accordance with PUA 7-507(e)(6), which requires that the Commission establish regulations, " ... providing for the referral of a delinquent account by an electricity supplier to the standard offer service .... "
Staff noted that the obligation for the EDCs to offer SOS continues for residential and small commercial customers, with no sunset date
Staff said that, "Should SCB be adopted in such a way that utilities would terminate service to a supplier's customer at the supplier's request, this statutory and regulatory language would need to be changed."
Staff said that there are no statutory or regulatory provisions for gas that match the status of SOS discussed above. "However, absent a finding that Sales Service is fundamentally different from SOS, the two industries are to be treated consistently regarding retail choice matters. Thus, because Sales Service is the customer's POLR gas service, cessation of supplier service in the event of non-payment or delinquency would result in the customer being returned to the utility for gas as well as electricity," Staff said
"[I]t is Staff's position that the PUA requires that any customer disconnected from retail supply service must be returned to utility-administered Standard Offer Service, irrespective of when or if the customer repays any outstanding obligations to the SCB provider that directed the customer's disconnection," Staff said
Staff said that, should the Commission decide that it is in the public interest to allow SCB providers to direct utilities to terminate retail supply customers for non-payment, the Commission does not need to amend four statutory provisions relating to utility termination of customers for non-payment (PUA §§7-307, 7-307.1, 7-307.3, and 7-309), because termination will be performed by a public service company. However, the Commission may wish to consider a broader amendment of PUA §§7-507 and 7-601 et seq. to clarify the inclusion of termination of electric and gas service under SCB in addition to adopting regulations that contain the implementation details of these new termination processes, Staff said