CPUC Orders Fire Victim Consumer Protections Urged by TURN

Thursday, Nov. 9, San Francisco–The CPUC today agreed with TURN that PG&E and other utility companies should provide fire victims with urgent protections to make sure utility deposits, arrearages or other obligations don’t become barriers to victims rebuilding their lives. With the Commission’s approval of TURN’s proposals, customers seeking to establish or re-establish service will not be required to pay credit deposits and disconnections for nonpayment will be suspended.

TURN requested the emergency protections in a letter dated Oct. 24, noting that accessing the essential services provided by PG&E and other utility companies will be a key aspect in the recovery of residents in the affected areas.  “Phone service, lights and water are essential,” said TURN Executive Director Mark Toney. “Customers can’t wait for relief.”  As per TURN’s recommendation, the policies will be in affect for at least one year

A major hurdle for evacuees trying to transition from shelters or other temporary housing to permanent homes can be utility credit deposits. Some evacuees who might otherwise have had the means to pay a deposit have lost their jobs or wages due to the destruction. Others are seniors or families who simply don’t have the means to pay a deposit on top of all their other expenses.

Additional protections urged by TURN and ordered by the CPUC include:

  • Suspension of disconnection for non-payment and associated fees;
  • Suspension of deposits to re-establish credit and late fees;
  • Offers of payment plans for customers affected by the wildfire disaster who have prior arrearages, or who indicate inability to pay current bills (e.g., longer payment plans); and
  • Accounting for reduced consumption in estimation of bills and ceasing to bill customers whose homes are not able to receive utility services.

“Assisting fire victims should be the utilities’ the priority,” said Toney. “While the investigation into the cause of the fire may go on for years, the need for relief is immediate. We’re pleased the CPUC recognized that in requiring utilities to institute the vital protections we urged.”