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RULE §25.481Unauthorized Charges

(a) Authorization of charges. Any services offered by the retail electric provider (REP) that will be billed on the customer's electric bill shall be authorized by the customer consistent with this section.

(b) Requirements for billing charges. A REP shall meet all of the following requirements before including any charges on the customer's electric bill:

  (1) The REP shall inform the customer of the product or service being offered, including all associated charges, and explicitly inform the customer that the associated charges for the product or service will appear on the customer's electric bill.

  (2) The customer must clearly and explicitly consent to obtaining the product or service offered and to having the associated charges appear on the customer's electric bill. The REP shall document the authorization in accordance with §25.474 of this title (relating to Selection of Retail Electric Provider). The documentation of the authorization shall be maintained by the REP for at least 24 months.

  (3) The REP shall provide the customer with a toll-free telephone number the customer may call and an address to which the customer may write to resolve any billing dispute and to answer questions.

(c) Responsibilities for unauthorized charges.

  (1) If a REP charges a customer's electric bill for any product or service without proper customer authorization, the REP shall promptly, but not later than 45 days thereafter:

    (A) discontinue providing the product or service to the customer and cease charging the customer for the unauthorized product or service;

    (B) remove the unauthorized charge from the customer's bill;

    (C) refund or credit to the customer the money that has been paid by the customer for any unauthorized charge, and if any unauthorized charge that has been paid is not refunded or credited within three billing cycles, pay interest at an annual rate established by the commission pursuant to §25.478(f) of this title (relating to Credit Requirements and Deposits) on the amount of any unauthorized charge until it is refunded or credited; and

    (D) upon the customer's request, provide the customer, free of charge, with all billing records under its control related to any unauthorized charge within 15 business days after the date of the removal of the charge from the customer's electric bill.

  (2) A REP shall not:

    (A) seek to disconnect electric service to any customer for nonpayment of an unauthorized charge;

    (B) file an unfavorable credit report against a customer who has not paid charges that the customer has alleged were unauthorized unless the dispute regarding the unauthorized charges is ultimately resolved against the customer. The customer remains obligated to pay any charges that are not in dispute; or

    (C) re-bill the customer for any unauthorized charge.

  (3) In the event that a REP erroneously files an unfavorable credit report against a customer who has not paid charges that the customer has alleged were unauthorized, the REP must correct the credit report without delay.

  (4) A REP shall maintain for at least 24 months a record of every customer who has experienced any unauthorized charge for a product or service on the customer's electric bill and has notified the REP of the unauthorized charge. The record shall contain for each unauthorized charge:

    (A) the date the customer requested that the REP remove the unauthorized charge from the customer's electric bill;

    (B) the date the unauthorized charge was removed from the customer's electric bill; and

    (C) the date the customer was refunded or credited any money that the customer paid for the unauthorized charges.

(d) Notice to customers. Any bill sent to a residential and small commercial customer from a REP shall include a statement, prominently located on the bill, that if the customer believes the bill includes unauthorized charges, the customer should contact the REP to dispute such charges and, if not satisfied with the REP's review may file a complaint with the Public Utility Commission of Texas, P.O. Box 13326, Austin, Texas 78711-3326, (512) 936-7120 or toll-free in Texas at (888) 782-8477. Hearing and speech-impaired individuals with text telephones (TTY) may contact the commission at (512) 936-7136.

(e) Compliance and enforcement.

  (1) A REP shall provide proof of the customer's authorization and verification to the customer and/or the commission upon request.

  (2) A REP shall provide a copy of records maintained under the requirements of subsection (c)(4) of this section to the commission or commission staff upon request.

Source Note: The provisions of this §25.481 adopted to be effective January 15, 2001, 26 TexReg 125; amended to be effective June 1, 2004, 29 TexReg 4756; amended to be effective March 8, 2007, 32 TexReg 1286

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