Fighting Utility Company Friday Shutoffs
October 29, 2013- Howard Ondick
HARRISBURG- A state lawmaker is planning to introduce legislation in
Harrisburg to prevent utility companies from shutting off service on a Friday
to customers who have fallen behind on paying their bills.
Our speaker is Senator Mike Stack of Philadelphia who’s
concerned that a House-passed bill could harm low-income utility customers
Senator Stack is working on legislation that would
counter a House measure now before the Senate Committee on Consumer Protection
& Professional Licensure for consideration. HB 939 permits utility companies to terminate service on a Friday.
“I have heard from
numerous constituents on how discontinuing utility services on a Friday sets
into motion an entire episode of pitfalls for working families not only in
Philadelphia but across Pennsylvania,” Stack wrote in a letter to PECO
President & CEO Dennis O’Brien.
Senator Stack’s measure would eliminate Friday shutoffs
to deliver a significant protection for consumers and as a way to save money
for electricity generators.
“Friday shut-offs prove more costly for utility companies
such as PECO considering you will need to have maintenance workers and line
workers on staff during Saturdays,” Senator Stack said.
“Additionally, the notification of a Monday shut-off
would allow a working mother who’s waiting tables a few extra days to pick up
shifts and earn more income – to avoid a painful shut off.”
Utility customers that are hit with shutoff notices can
turn to community agencies for help, but with Friday shutoffs, those social
service programs are not available after business hours on Friday or over the
weekend. Most banks and credit unions that could lend cash to help utility customers
at risk of losing power to heat their homes are also closed.
Senator Stack’s proposal would also add another five
years to the life of Pennsylvania’s “Responsible Utility Customer Protection
Act,” which became law in 2004. The
Philadelphia law-maker is planning to formally introduce his bill when the
Senate returns to session next month.
Act 201, as it is otherwise known, is intended to protect
responsible bill-paying customers from rate increases attributable to the
uncollectible accounts of customers who can afford to pay their bills but
choose not to pay them. If approved, the
“Responsible Utility Customer Protection Act” would sunset on Dec. 31, 2019.