Michigan PSC revises consumer standards and billing practices


J. Peter Lark,
Lansing, MI, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — June 29, 2007 – The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) has approved revised rules governing consumer standards and billing practices for electric and gas residential services.

The revisions – the first in 10 years – are aimed at significantly helping customers by providing more shut-off protections, prohibiting estimated meter reading in most cases, and giving customers more time to pay their bills, according to MPSC Chairman J. Peter Lark.

To date the rules have permitted utilities to estimate bills for residential customers every other billing month and to estimate bills “more or less often upon a finding by the commission that those procedures assure reasonable billing accuracy.” Under the new rules actual meter readings – which include having the customer reading the meter and transmitting the information to the utility – are required every month and estimated bills may be issued only if the utility cannot gain access to the meter and has exhausted all reasonable alternatives to obtain an actual read. In such cases estimated billing procedures are to be approved by the Commission.

Billing activities are also changed and bills can now be transmitted by Internet and fax in addition to mail. Moreover the payment period has been increased from 17 days to 21 days, and if a utility company overcharges a customer due to a billing error, the customer will receive 7 percent interest on the over-charges.

Other key revisions include a change in the space-heating season for winter protection from December 1 through March 31 to November 1 through March 31 and lower deposit requirements during this period, a provision for companies to opt to create an expanded Winter Protection Program in order to serve customers above 150 percent of the federal poverty level, increased shutoff protection for low income customers, and changes to identification information that can be used by utility companies.

The rules now go to the Legislative Service Bureau and the Office of Regulatory Reform for approval.