Disconnection of service.
(1) Customer-directed. The utility may require customers to give at least three days' notice prior to the date service is to be discontinued. The customer is not responsible for usage after the requested date for discontinuance of service, provided the customer gave proper notice. If the customer moves from the service address and fails to request that service be discontinued, the customer will be responsible to pay for service taken at that service address until the utility can confirm either that the customer has vacated the premises and can access the meter or that a new responsible party is taking service.
(2) Utility-directed without notice or without further notice. The utility may discontinue service without notice or without further notice when:
(a) After conducting a thorough investigation, the utility determines that the customer has tampered with or stolen the utility's property, has used service through an illegal connection, or has fraudulently obtained service. The utility has the burden of proving that fraud occurred. For the purpose of this section, a nonsufficient funds check or dishonored electronic payment alone will not be considered fraud.
(i) First offense. The utility may disconnect service without notice when it discovers theft, tampering, or fraud, unless the customer immediately pays all of the following:
(A) The tariffed rate for service that the utility estimates was used as a result of the theft, tampering, or fraud;
(B) All utility costs resulting from such theft, tampering, or fraud; and
(C) Any required deposit.
(ii) Second offense. The utility may disconnect service without notice when it discovers further theft, tampering, or fraud. The utility may refuse to reconnect service to a customer who has been twice disconnected for theft, tampering, or fraud, subject to appeal to the commission.
(b) After conducting a thorough investigation, the utility determines that the customer has vacated the premises;
(c) The utility identifies a hazardous condition in the customer's facilities or in the utility's facilities serving the customer;
(d) A customer pays a delinquent account with a check or electronic payment the bank or other financial institution has dishonored after the utility has issued appropriate notice as described in subsection (6) of this section;
(e) The customer has not kept any agreed-upon payment arrangement for payment of a delinquent balance after the utility has issued appropriate notice as described in subsection (6) of this section; or
(f) The utility has determined a customer has used service prior to applying for service. The utility must charge the customer for service used in accordance with the utility's filed tariff.
This section should not be interpreted as relieving the customer or other person of civil or criminal responsibility.
(3) Utility-directed with notice. After properly notifying the customer, as explained in subsection (6) of this section, the utility may discontinue service for any one of the following conditions:
(a) For delinquent charges associated with regulated electric service (or for regulated electric and gas service if the utility provides both services), including any required deposit. However, the utility cannot disconnect service when the customer has met the requirements of subsection (5) of this section for medical emergencies, or has agreed to or maintains agreed-upon payment arrangements with the utility, as described in WAC 480-100-143
, Winter low-income payment program;
(b) For use of electric service for purposes or properties other than those specified in the customer's service application;
(c) Under flat-rate service for nonmetered load, for increased electric use without the utility's approval;
(d) For refusing to allow the utility's representatives access to the customer's premises as required in WAC 480-100-168
, Access to premises; identification;
(e) For violating rules, service agreements, or filed tariff(s); or
(f) For use of equipment that detrimentally affects the utility's service to its other customers.
(4) Electric service may not be disconnected for amounts that may be owed the utility for nonregulated service.
(5) Medical emergencies. When the utility has cause to disconnect or has disconnected a residential service, it must postpone disconnection of service or must reinstate service for a grace period of five business days after receiving either verbal or written notification of the existence of a medical emergency. The utility must reinstate service during the same day if the customer contacts the utility prior to the close of the business day and requests a same-day reconnection. Otherwise, the utility must restore service by 12:00 p.m. the next business day. When service is reinstated the utility will not require payment of a reconnection charge and/or deposit prior to reinstating service but must bill all such charges on the customer's next regular bill or on a separate invoice.
(a) The utility may require that the customer, within five business days, submit written certification from a qualified medical professional stating that the disconnection of electric service would aggravate an existing medical condition of a resident of the household. "Qualified medical professional" means a licensed physician, nurse practitioner, or physician's assistant authorized to diagnose and treat the medical condition without supervision of a physician. Nothing in this section precludes a utility from accepting other forms of certification, but the maximum the utility can require is written certification. If the utility requires written certification, it may not require more than the following information:
(i) Residence location;
(ii) An explanation of how the current medical condition will be aggravated by disconnection of service;
(iii) A statement of how long the condition is expected to last; and
(iv) The title, signature, and telephone number of the person certifying the condition;
(b) The medical certification is valid only for the length of time the health endangerment is certified to exist but no longer than sixty days, unless renewed;
(c) A medical emergency does not excuse a customer from having to pay delinquent and ongoing charges. The utility may require the customer to do the following within a five-business-day grace period:
(i) Pay a minimum of ten percent of the delinquent balance;
(ii) Enter into an agreement to pay the remaining delinquent balance within one hundred twenty days; and
(iii) Agree to pay subsequent bills when due.
Nothing in this section precludes the utility from agreeing to an alternate payment plan, but the utility may not require the customer to pay more than this subsection prescribes. The utility must send a notice to the customer confirming the payment arrangements within two business days of having reached the agreement;
(d) If the customer fails to provide an acceptable medical certificate or ten percent of the delinquent balance within the five-business-day grace period, or if the customer fails to abide by the terms of the payment agreement, the utility may not disconnect service without first mailing a written notice providing a disconnection date not earlier than 5:00 p.m. of the third business day after the date of mailing, if mailed from within the states of Washington, Oregon, or Idaho, or the sixth business day, if mailed from outside the states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, or by personally delivering a notice providing a disconnection date of not earlier than 5:00 p.m. of the second business day following the date of delivery;
(e) A customer may claim medical emergency and be entitled to the benefits described in this subsection only twice within any one hundred twenty-day period.
(6) Disconnection notification requirements. The utility must notify customers before disconnecting their service, except as described in subsection (2) of this section. Notification consists of the following requirements:
(a) The utility must serve a written disconnection notice to the customer either by mail or by personal delivery to the customer's address with notice attached to the primary door. If the disconnection notice is for nonpayment during the winter months, the utility must advise the customer of the payment plan described in WAC 480-100-138
, Payment arrangements, and WAC 480-100-143
, Winter low-income payment program. Each disconnection notice must include:
(i) A disconnection date that is not less than eight business days after the date of personal delivery or mailing, if mailed from inside the states of Washington, Oregon, or Idaho, or a disconnection date that is not less than eleven business days, if mailed from outside the states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.
(ii) All relevant information about the disconnection action including the cause for disconnection; the amount owed for regulated electric service and, if applicable, regulated natural gas service; and how to avoid disconnection;
(iii) All relevant information about any charges that may be assessed; and
(iv) The utility's name, address, and toll-free telephone number by which a customer may contact the utility to discuss the pending disconnection of service;
(b) If the utility discovers the notice information in (a) of this subsection is inaccurate, the utility must issue another notice to the customer as described in subsection (6)(a) of this section;
(c) If the utility has not disconnected service within ten business days of the disconnection date stated in (a)(i) of this subsection, the disconnection notice will be considered void unless the customer and the utility have agreed to a payment arrangement. Upon a void notice, the utility must provide a new disconnection notice to the customer as described in (a) of this subsection;
(d) In addition to the notice required by (a) of this subsection, a second notice must be provided by one of the three options listed below:
(i) Delivered notice. The utility must deliver a second notice to the service premises and attach it to the customer's primary door. The notice must state a scheduled disconnection date that is not earlier than 5:00 p.m. of the second business day after the date of delivery;
(ii) Mailed notice. The utility must mail a second notice which must include a scheduled disconnection date that is not earlier than 5:00 p.m. of the third business day after the date of mailing, if mailed from within the states of Washington, Oregon, or Idaho; or the sixth business day, if mailed from outside the states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho; or
(iii) Telephone notice. The utility must attempt at least two times to contact the customer during regular business hours. A log or record of the calls must be kept for a minimum of ninety calendar days showing the telephone number called, the time of the call, and details of the results of each attempted call. If the utility is unable to reach the customer by telephone, a written notice must be mailed to the customer providing a disconnection date not earlier than 5:00 p.m. of the third business day after the date of mailing, if mailed from within the states of Washington, Oregon, or Idaho, or the sixth business day, if mailed from outside the states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, or written notice must be personally delivered providing a disconnection date of not earlier than 5:00 p.m. of the second business day following the date of delivery.
For utilities billing for electric and gas service, each type of notice listed above must provide the information contained in (a)(iii) of this subsection;
(e) If the utility discovers the written notice information required under the options in (d) of this subsection is inaccurate, the utility must issue another notice to the customer as described in (a) of this subsection;
(f) If the utility provides a second notice within ten business days of the disconnection date required by (a)(i) of this subsection, the disconnection date is extended an additional ten working days from the disconnection date of the second notice. If the utility does not disconnect service within the extended ten-business-day period, the notice will be considered void unless the customer and the utility have agreed upon a payment arrangement. Upon a void notice, the utility must provide an additional notice as required under (d) of this subsection;
(g) If the utility provides a second notice after the ten business days of the disconnection date required by (a)(i) of this subsection, the notice will be considered void unless the customer and the utility have agreed upon a payment arrangement. Upon a void notice, the utility must provide a new disconnection notice to the customer as described in (a) of this subsection;
(h) Utilities with combined accounts for both natural gas and electric service will have the option of choosing which service will be disconnected;
(i) When the service address is different from the billing address, the utility must determine if the customer of record and the service user are the same party. If not, the utility must notice the service user as described in (a) of this subsection prior to disconnecting service;
(j) Except in case of danger to life or property, the utility may not disconnect service on Saturdays, Sundays, legal holidays, or on any other day on which the utility cannot reestablish service on the same or following day;
(k) A utility representative dispatched to disconnect service must accept payment of a delinquent account at the service address, but will not be required to give change for cash paid in excess of the amount due and owing. The utility must credit any over-payment to the customer's account. The utility may charge a fee for the disconnection visit to the service address if provided for in the utility's tariff;
(l) When service is provided through a master meter, or when the utility has reasonable grounds to believe service is to other than the customer of record, the utility must undertake reasonable efforts to inform the occupants of the service address of the impending disconnection. Upon request of one or more service users, where service is to other than the customer of record, the utility must allow five days past the original disconnection date to permit the service users to arrange for continued service;
(m) Medical facilities. When service is known to be provided to:
(i) A hospital, medical clinic, ambulatory surgery center, renal dialysis facility, chemical dependency residential treatment facility, or other medical care facility licensed or certified by the department of health, a notice of pending disconnection must be provided to the secretary of the department of health and to the customer. The department of health secretary or designee may request to delay the disconnection for five business days past the original disconnection date to allow the department to take the necessary steps to protect the interests of the patients residing at the facility; or
(ii) A nursing home, boarding home, adult family home, group care facility, intermediate care facility for the mentally retarded (ICF/MR), intensive tenant support residential property, chemical dependency residential treatment facility, crisis residential center for children or other group home or residential care facility licensed or certified by the department of social and health services, a notice of pending disconnection must be provided to the secretary of the department of social and health services and to the customer. The department of social and health services secretary or designee may request to delay the disconnection for five business days past the original disconnection date to allow the department to take the necessary steps to protect the interests of the patients residing at the facility;
(n) Any customer may designate a third party to receive a disconnection notice or notice of other matters affecting the customer's service. The utility must offer all customers the opportunity to make such a designation. If the utility believes that a customer is not able to understand the effect of the disconnection, the utility must consider a social agency to be the third party. In either case, the utility must delay service disconnection for five business days past the original disconnection date after issuing a disconnection notice to the third party. The utility must determine which social agencies are appropriate and willing to receive the disconnection notice, the name and/or title of the person able to deal with the disconnection, and provide that information to the customer.
(7) For purposes of this section, the date of mailing a notice will not be considered the first day of the notice period.
(8) Payments at a payment agency. Payment of any past-due amounts to a designated payment agency of the utility constitutes payment when the customer informs the utility of the payment and the utility has verified the payment.
(9) Remedy and appeals. Service may not be disconnected while the customer is pursuing any remedy or appeal provided by these rules or while engaged in discussions with the utility's representatives or with the commission. Any amounts not in dispute must be paid when due and any conditions posing a danger to health, safety, or property must be corrected. The utility must inform the customer of these provisions when the customer is referred to a utility's supervisor or to the commission.
[Statutory Authority: RCW 80.01.040
and 80.04.160. WSR 01-11-004 (Docket No. UE-990473, General Order No. R-482), § 480-100-128, filed 5/3/01, effective 6/3/01.]