Pennsylvania PUC Denies Rehearing Of Order That Had Found Utility's Billing Practice To Be "Discriminatory" Against Retail Suppliers
Order Had Required Utility To Either Expand "On-Bill" Non-Commodity Billing To Retail Suppliers, Or Cease Practice
January 18, 2019 Email This Story Copyright 2010-19 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • email@example.com
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The Pennsylvania PUC has denied rehearing requests of a December 2018 order in which, as part of Columbia Gas's rate case, the PUC found that Columbia's practice of providing "on-bill" billing for non-utility services to only two select providers is, "discriminatory."
As exclusively reported by EnergyChoiceMatters.com in December, the PUC in its December order had declined to immediately order Columbia provide such "on-bill" billing for all retail suppler non-commodity products, stating reasonable limits may be required, but did direct Columbia to implement any solution in a non-discriminatory manner
Currently, Columbia has two agreements for the provision of 'on bill' billing for non-commodity services, with Columbia Service Partners, Inc. (CSP) and Nicor Energy Services Company (Nicor), both former affiliates of Columbia. Columbia does not currently provide 'on bill' billing for non-commodity goods and services to any third parties, such as retail suppliers
The PUC in December had directed that, "Columbia must comply with Section 1502 of the Code and provide its 'on bill' billing policy in a way that is nondiscriminatory. In other words, Columbia must either provide such a service to all entities that provide such non-basic services or must discontinue the 'on bill' billing policy."
The PUC did not compel Columbia to offer 'on bill' billing for non-commodity services to retail suppliers, but directed Columbia to file a plan with how to comply with its directive to apply the service in a nondiscriminatory manner
Consumer advocates and Columbia had sought rehearing of the PUC's December order. The PUC denied such rehearing requests, finding that parties repeated arguments that had been fully considered by the PUC in its order
"With respect to the OCA’s position that the billing practice in question raises consumer protection concerns, our December 6 Order’s requirement that Columbia provide billing services in a non-discriminatory manner does not obviate the need for those billing practices to comply with existing consumer protection regulations. See, December 6 Order at 51, citing 52 Pa. Code § 56.83(3) (providing that utility service may not be terminated for nonpayment of such non-basic charges). If the billing practice in question results in actual violations of consumer protections, the matter may be appropriately raised and addressed at that time," the PUC said
"[T]he concern for consumer protections expressed by both the OCA and CAUSE-PA is based on speculative harm which might result from the practice of 'on bill billing' if expanded, rather than any evidence presented on the record of customers actually harmed by the practice. Further, CAUSE-PA fails to reconcile its position that the Commission should direct Columbia to cease the practice of 'on bill billing' with the fact that the practice is expressly authorized by the Natural Gas Choice Act, 66 Pa. C.S. §2205 (c)(3)," the PUC said