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TITLE 16ECONOMIC REGULATION
PART 2PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION OF TEXAS
CHAPTER 25SUBSTANTIVE RULES APPLICABLE TO ELECTRIC SERVICE PROVIDERS
SUBCHAPTER RCUSTOMER PROTECTION RULES FOR RETAIL ELECTRIC SERVICE PROVIDERS
RULE §25.480Bill Payment and Adjustments

(a) Application. This section applies to a retail electric provider (REP) that is responsible for issuing electric service bills to retail customers, unless the REP is issuing a consolidated bill (both energy services and transmission and distribution services) on behalf of an electric cooperative or municipally owned utility. In addition, this section applies to a transmission and distribution utility (TDU) where specifically stated. This section does not apply to a municipally owned utility or electric cooperative issuing bills to its customers in its own service territory.

(b) Bill due date. A REP shall state a payment due date on the bill which shall not be less than 16 days after issuance. A bill is considered to be issued on the issuance date stated on the bill or the postmark date on the envelope, whichever is later. A payment for electric service is delinquent if not received by the REP or at the REP's authorized payment agency by the close of business on the due date. If the 16th day falls on a holiday or weekend, then the due date shall be the next business day after the 16th day.

(c) Penalty on delinquent bills for electric service. A REP may charge a one-time penalty not to exceed 5.0% on a delinquent bill for electric service. No such penalty shall apply to residential or small commercial customers served by the provider of last resort (POLR). The one-time penalty, not to exceed 5.0%, may not be applied to any balance to which the penalty has already been applied.

(d) Overbilling. If charges are found to be higher than authorized in the REP's terms and conditions for service or other applicable commission rules, then the customer's bill shall be corrected.

  (1) The correction shall be made for the entire period of the overbilling.

  (2) If the REP corrects the overbilling within three billing cycles of the error, it need not pay interest on the amount of the correction.

  (3) If the REP does not correct the overcharge within three billing cycles of the error, it shall pay interest on the amount of the overcharge at the rate set by the commission.

    (A) Interest on overcharges that are not adjusted by the REP within three billing cycles of the bill in error shall accrue from the date of payment by the customer.

    (B) All interest shall be compounded monthly at the approved annual rate set by the commission.

    (C) Interest shall not apply to leveling plans or estimated billings.

  (4) If the REP rebills for a prior billing cycle, the adjustments shall be identified by account and billing date or service period.

(e) Underbilling by a REP. If charges are found to be lower than authorized by the REP's terms and conditions of service, or if the REP fails to bill the customer for service, then the customer's bill may be corrected.

  (1) The customer shall not be responsible for corrected charges billed by the REP unless such charges are billed by the REP within 180 days from the date of issuance of the bill in which the underbilling occurred The REP may backbill a customer for the amount that was underbilled beyond the timelines provided in this paragraph if:

    (A) the underbilling is found to be the result of meter tampering by the customer; or

    (B) the TDU bills the REP for an underbilling as a result of meter error as provided in §25.126 of this title (relating to Adjustments Due to Non-Compliant Meters and Meter Tampering in Areas Where Customer Choice Has Been Introduced).

  (2) The REP may disconnect service pursuant to §25.483 of this title (relating to Disconnection of Service) if the customer fails to pay the additional charges within a reasonable time.

  (3) If the underbilling is $50 or more, the REP shall offer the customer a deferred payment plan option for the same length of time as that of the underbilling. A deferred payment plan need not be offered to a customer when the underpayment is due to theft of service.

  (4) The REP shall not charge interest on underbilled amounts unless such amounts are found to be the result of theft of service (meter tampering, bypass, or diversion) by the customer. Interest on underbilled amounts shall be compounded monthly at the annual rate, as set by the commission. Interest shall accrue from the day the customer is found to have first stolen the service.

  (5) If the REP adjusts the bills for a prior billing cycle, the adjustments shall be identified by account and billing date or service period.

(f) Disputed bills. If there is a dispute between a customer and a REP about the REP's bill for any service billed on the retail electric bill, the REP shall promptly investigate and report the results to the customer. The REP shall inform the customer of the complaint procedures of the commission pursuant to §25.485 of this title (relating to Customer Access and Complaint Handling).

(g) Alternate payment programs or payment assistance.

  (1) Notice required. When a customer contacts a REP and indicates inability to pay a bill or a need for assistance with the bill payment, the REP shall inform the customer of all applicable payment options and payment assistance programs that are offered by or available from the REP, such as bill payment assistance, deferred payment plans, disconnection moratoriums for the ill, or low-income energy assistance programs, and of the eligibility requirements and procedure for applying for each.

  (2) Bill payment assistance programs.

    (A) All REPs shall implement a bill payment assistance program for residential electric customers. At a minimum, such a program shall solicit voluntary donations from customers through the retail electric bills.

    (B) A REP shall obtain a commitment from an assistance agency selected to disburse bill payment assistance funds that the agency will not discriminate in the distribution of such funds to customers based on the customer's race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, marital status, lawful source of income, disability, familial status, location of customer in an economically distressed geographic area, or qualification for low-income affordability or energy efficiency services.

  (3) A REP shall provide, in a project established by the commission, information about its voluntary bill payment assistance program for burned veterans. This information shall include the REP's name, the REP's certification number, and a toll free telephone number and website address where customers can obtain additional information. The commission will publish such information on the commission website.

(h) Level and average payment plans. A REP shall make a level or average payment plan available to its customers consistent with this subsection. A customer receiving service from a provider of last resort (POLR) may be required to select a competitive product offered by the POLR REP to receive the level or average payment plan.

  (1) A REP shall make a level or average payment plan available to a customer who is not currently delinquent in payment to the REP. A customer is delinquent in payment in the following circumstances:

    (A) A customer whose normal billing arrangement provides for payment after the rendition of service is delinquent if the date specified for payment of a bill has passed and the customer has not paid the full amount due.

    (B) A customer whose normal billing arrangement provides for payment before the rendition of service is delinquent if the customer has a negative balance on the account for electric service.

  (2) A REP shall reconcile any over- or under-payment consistent with the applicable terms of service, which shall provide for reconciliation at least every twelve months. For a customer with an average payment plan, a REP may recalculate the average consumption or average bill and adjust the customer's required minimum payment as frequently as every billing period. A REP may collect under-payments associated with a level payment plan from a customer over a period no less than the reconciliation period or upon termination of service to the customer. A REP shall credit or refund any over-payments associated with a level payment plan to the customer at each reconciliation and upon termination of service to the customer. A REP may initiate its normal collection activity if a customer fails to make a timely payment according to such a level or average payment plan. All details concerning a level or average payment program shall be disclosed in the customer's terms of service document.

  (3) If the customer is delinquent in payment when the level or average payment plan is established, the REP may require the customer to pay no greater than 50% of the delinquent amount due. The REP may require the remaining delinquent amount to be paid by the customer in equal installments over at least five billing cycles unless the customer agrees to fewer installments or may include the remaining delinquent amount in the calculation of the level or average payment amount. If the REP requires installment payments, the REP shall provide the customer a copy of the deferred payment plan in writing as described in subsection (j)(5) of this section.

  (4) If the amount of the deferred balance does not appear on each bill the customer receives, the REP shall inform the customer that the customer may call the REP at any time to determine the amount that must be paid to be removed from the level or average payment plan.

  (5) If the customer is delinquent in payment when the level or average payment plan is established, the REP may apply a switch-hold at that time.

  (6) Before the REP applies a switch-hold to a customer on a level or average payment plan, the REP shall provide orally or in writing a clear explanation of the switch-hold process to the customer, prior to the customer's agreement to the plan. The explanation shall inform the customer as follows: "If you enter into this plan concerning your past due amount, we will put a switch-hold on your account. A switch-hold means that you will not be able to buy electricity from other companies until you pay the total deferred balance. If we put a switch-hold on your account, it will be removed after your deferred balance is paid and processed. While a switch-hold applies, if you are disconnected for not paying, you will need to pay {us or company name}, to get your electricity turned back on."

  (7) If the customer is not delinquent in payment when the level or average payment plan is established, a switch-hold shall not be applied unless the plan is established pursuant to subsection (j)(2)(B)(ii) of this section.

  (8) The REP, through a standard market process, shall submit a request to remove the switch-hold, pursuant to subsection (m) of this section, when the customer satisfies either subparagraph (A) or (B) of this paragraph, whichever occurs earlier. On the date the REP submits the request to remove the switch-hold, the REP shall notify or send notice to the customer that the customer has satisfied the obligation to pay any deferred balance owed and the removal of the switch-hold is being processed.

    (A) The customer's deferred balance, including any deferred delinquent amount described in paragraph (4) of this subsection, is either zero or in an over-payment status.

    (B) The customer satisfies the terms of any deferred delinquent amount described in paragraph (4) of this subsection and has paid bills for 12 consecutive billings without having been disconnected and without having more than one late payment.

(i) Payment arrangements. A payment arrangement is any agreement between the REP and a customer that allows a customer to pay the outstanding bill after its due date, but before the due date of the next bill. If the REP issues a disconnection notice before a payment arrangement was made, that disconnection should be suspended until after the due date for the payment arrangement. If a customer does not fulfill the terms of the payment arrangement, service may be disconnected after the later of the due date for the payment arrangement or the disconnection date indicated in the notice, without issuing an additional disconnection notice.

(j) Deferred payment plans and other alternate payment arrangements.

  (1) A deferred payment plan is an agreement between the REP and a customer that allows a customer to pay an outstanding balance in installments that extend beyond the due date of the current bill. A deferred payment plan may be established in person, by telephone, or online, but all deferred payment plans shall be confirmed in writing by the REP in accordance with paragraph (5) of this subsection. Before the REP applies a switch-hold to a customer on a deferred payment plan, the REP shall provide a clear explanation of the switch-hold process to the customer. The explanation shall inform the customer as follows: "If you enter into this plan concerning your past due amount, we will put a switch-hold on your account. A switch-hold means that you will not be able to buy electricity from other companies until you pay the total deferred balance. If we put a switch-hold on your account, it will be removed after your deferred balance is paid and processed. While a switch-hold applies, if you are disconnected for not paying, you will need to pay {us or company name}, to get your electricity turned back on."

    (A) A REP shall offer a deferred payment plan to customers, upon request, for bills that become due during an extreme weather emergency, pursuant to §25.483(j) of this title.

Cont'd...

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