BOSTON (Mass.gov) – As part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s efforts to protect ratepayers, the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has issued an Order instituting increased protections for customers of electric and gas utilities and extending the prohibition on investor-owned utility companies shutting off gas and electric utility service to any customers for nonpayment. The Order is the result of recommendations from the Customer Assistance and Ratemaking Working Group, which is composed of consumer advocate groups, the Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Energy Resources, and utility companies.
“This Order will help protect the residents and businesses that have faced economic hardships during the pandemic, while ensuring continued reliable gas and electric service,” said DPU Chairman Matthew Nelson. “By implementing new customer protection requirements, the Baker-Polito Administration is providing a safety net for residents and small businesses as we move toward a new normal in the Commonwealth.”
As a result of proposals from the Customer Assistance and Ratemaking Working Group, the Order extends the shutoff moratorium for gas and electric service until August 31, 2020 for Commercial & Industrial (C&I) customers and November 15, 2020 for residential customers.
Additionally, the Order implements important new ratepayer protection provisions, including:
- Utility companies cannot assess late fees or discontinue service to customers enrolled in a payment plan.
- To ensure customers have notice of any potential shutoff, companies are required, in advance of any potential shutoff, to issue notices to customers that inform customers about the payments due, the availability of payment plans, and the potential for shutoffs.
- Companies must continue waiving late payment fees for small C&I customers for six months following the date that Governor Baker lifts the State of Emergency.
- Companies are required to waive any previously required “good faith payments” in circumstances where a customer re-enrolls in an arrearage management plan (AMP) after breaking from a prior AMP.
On May 11, 2020, DPU issued an Order establishing a Customer Assistance and Ratemaking Working Group to report on recommendations for customer assistance policies and practices, including proposals such as extended payment plans, enhanced arrearage management plans, customer outreach, waived late of fees, and moratorium continuation.
The Working Group is composed of the Department of Energy Resources, the Office of the Attorney General, the National Consumer Law Center, the Low-Income Energy Affordability Network, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Unitil, National Grid, Eversource Energy, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, Liberty Utilities, Massachusetts Electric Company and Nantucket Electric Company, The Berkshire Gas Company, and Blackstone Gas Company.
Investor-owned water companies remain prohibited from shutting off water service due to nonpayment, and the DPU is currently working to address water companies separately.
To support ratepayers during the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 24 the DPU issued an Order temporarily prohibiting investor-owned utility companies from shutting off gas, electric, and water utility service to any customers for failure to pay a bill or a portion of a bill.