Press "Enter" to skip to content

RELEASE: Murphy Calls On PURA to Force Utility Companies to Comply With Decision to Notify Low-Income Residents of Hardship Protections

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Thursday urged the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to ensure that utilities companies Eversource and United Illuminating comply with their decision to notify low-income residents of hardship protections for which they are eligible. In 2018, after a News 8 investigation found that the rate Eversource had disconnected customers from electricity for nonpayment nearly doubled in two years, Murphy called on PURA to examine Eversource’s actions. In response, PURA held hearings about the two companies’ shutoffs and issued a directive requiring that the companies meet a number of requirements, including developing call scripts and factsheets that require the companies to alert customers of payment options.

“Your Final Interim Decision of the Investigation into Distribution System Planning of the Electric Distribution Companies’ Energy Affordability (“Decision”) on December 18, 2019 bears out my initial concerns, and rightfully calls on Eversource and United Illuminating (“Companies”) to take appropriate steps to ensure that families eligible for hardship protections are receiving them,” Murphy wrote to PURA Chair Marissa Gillett. “I remain concerned, however, that the companies are not adequately complying with this directive, and I urge you to ensure that their call scripts and factsheets meet the spirit and intent of your directive.”

Murphy continued, “PURA’s decision required the companies to take three immediate-term measures: updating call center scripts for customer service representatives to address customers’ questions, developing factsheets on repayment policies and procedures, and holding at least six informational hearings for members of the public in their service territories.”

“I am concerned that the call center scripts and factsheets submitted on January 17, 2020 by Eversource and United Illuminating do not sufficiently comply with PURA’s decision, and that hardship-eligible residents will continue to face disconnections because the companies are refusing to clearly and immediately inform them about the Winter Protection Plan and utility forgiveness programs,” Murphy added.

Murphy concluded, “Going forward, it is critical that the companies promptly improve customer outreach and take responsibility for informing customers of these regulatory protections.”

Full text of the letter is available here and below:

Ms. Marissa Gillett
Chair
Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority
Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
10 Franklin Square
New Britain, CT 06051

Dear Ms. Gillett:

I appreciate the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority’s (PURA) investigation following my April 13, 2018 letter regarding customer disconnections by Eversource. As I noted in that letter, the rate of Eversource’s customer disconnections has dramatically increased since 2015, despite an improving economy and a variety of hardship repayment programs for delinquent customers. Your Final Interim Decision of the Investigation into Distribution System Planning of the Electric Distribution Companies’ Energy Affordability (“Decision”) on December 18, 2019 bears out my initial concerns, and rightfully calls on Eversource and United Illuminating (“Companies”) to take appropriate steps to ensure that families eligible for hardship protections are receiving them. I remain concerned, however, that the companies are not adequately complying with this directive, and I urge you to ensure that their call scripts and factsheets meet the spirit and intent of your directive.

Low-income customers who qualify for hardship status, specifically those who qualify for state or federal financial assistance, should always be protected from winter shut-offs between November 1 and May 1 under the Winter Protection Plan. PURA’s decision found that the companies were not informing low-income customers of the existing Winter Protection Plan and other benefits of the “Hardship” coding in the companies’ collections systems, resulting in unnecessary disconnections between November 1 and May 1. In addition, many low-income customers remained uninformed of the companies’ utility arrearage forgiveness programs to help eligible customers maintain year-round service while paying down a delinquent balance on their bills.

PURA’s decision required the companies to take three immediate-term measures: updating call center scripts for customer service representatives to address customers’ questions, developing factsheets on repayment policies and procedures, and holding at least six informational hearings for members of the public in their service territories.

I am concerned that the call center scripts and factsheets submitted on January 17, 2020 by Eversource and United Illuminating do not sufficiently comply with PURA’s decision, and that hardship-eligible residents will continue to face disconnections because the companies are refusing to clearly and immediately inform them about the Winter Protection Plan and utility forgiveness programs. I encourage you to ensure that the companies either redo the call center scripts and factsheets to be consistent with your directive, or that you develop your own scripting and factsheets that the companies shall be required to use to properly inform customers of these resources.

Going forward, it is critical that the companies promptly improve customer outreach and take responsibility for informing customers of these regulatory protections.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

###


Go to Source
Author:

All Information was gathered from publicly available US Government releases. "§105. Subject matter of copyright: United States Government works Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government, but the United States Government is not precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise. ( Pub. L. 94–553, title I, §101, Oct. 19, 1976, 90 Stat. 2546 .)" http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=(title:17%20section:105%20edition:prelim)