The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) today filed initial comments in the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) proceeding to modify deposit and reconnection requirements for the state's regulated natural gas utilities and their customers. While generally supporting most of the IURC's proposed changes to the current rule, the OUCC is recommending:
- Capping deposits for customers of large natural gas utilities (those serving at least 35,000 customers and their affiliates) at one-twelfth (one month) of a customer's estimated annual bill - unless the customer has a history of non-payment, in which the cap would be one-sixth (two months) of the estimated annual bill.
- Automatic enrollment of currently connected but delinquent customers in budget billing (for utilities with at least 35,000 customers and their affiliates). Under the OUCC's recommendations, those customers would pay off their debts over an 18-month period, with arrearages assessed on top of the regular budget bill amount.
- The implementation of a three-year utility reporting mechanism for customer debt data. Utility reporting of this information in a consistent manner would allow for a comprehensive review of utility bad debt experiences, while creating the opportunity for all stakeholders to develop long-term solutions.
- Support for the IURC's proposed rule changes regarding public safety, reconnection charges, and minimum immediate payment requirements in financial hardship cases.
"We are very concerned about the current, unprecedented costs of natural gas and the impact that high wholesale natural gas costs will have on customers in Indiana and throughout the nation," said Indiana Utility Consumer Counselor Susan L. Macey. "We are also concerned about the cycle of disconnects and reconnects facing many customers, and believe this rulemaking proceeding offers the opportunity to improve the rules using a balanced approach that will benefit both customers and utilities."
In addition to the agency's recommendations, the OUCC today forwarded to the IURC hundreds of unedited written comments received from consumers, organizations and elected officials.
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The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) is the state agency that represents the interests of all utility consumers and the public in matters related to the provision of utility services. The agency is active in proceedings before regulatory and legal bodies, and committed to giving consumers a voice in the creation of utility service policy. Residential, commercial and industrial customers with questions or concerns regarding utility service can contact the OUCC toll-free at 1-888-441-2494 or online at www.IN.gov/OUCC.
(IURC Rulemaking No. 05-03)
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