NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STATE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATES
URGING STATES TO GATHER UNIFORM STATISTICAL DATA ON BILLINGS, ARREARAGES AND DISCONNECTIONS OF RESIDENTIAL GAS AND ELECTRIC SERVICES
Whereas, the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (“NASUCA”) has passed a companion resolution encouraging the states to institute programs to reduce the incidence of disconnection of residential gas and electric service based on nonpayment; and
Whereas, gathering data concerning residential gas and electric service, including data concerning billings, arrearages and disconnections, and making that data publicly available, will assist policymakers in evaluating the effectiveness of existing disconnection practices and in identifying problems that may require new practices and policies; and
Whereas, the collection of arrearage and disconnection data concerning at-risk segments of the population including low-income customers, the elderly, and the ill are necessary to ensure that public health and safety risks are being adequately considered; and
Whereas, consistent, uniform reporting by utilities of billing and arrearage data enables policymakers to quantify both the number of consumers who are experiencing problems in paying their utility bills and the financial impact of the arrearages1; and
Whereas, the compilation of billing and arrearage data assists policymakers in evaluating the adequacy of financial assistance programs, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and other government assistance programs, utility fuel funds, and community assistance resources in helping customers pay utility bills;2 and
Whereas, a lack of consistent reporting of billing and arrearage data impedes the identification and/or aggregation of credit and collection best practices and the adoption of credit and collection benchmark standards that can be used in the States; and
Whereas, public policy supports the development of cost effective credit and collection policies and practices3 that make disconnection of gas and electric services the remedy of last resort, occurring only after all other reasonable collection tools have been exhausted; and
Whereas, data regarding the imposition of cash deposits is necessary to evaluate their effectiveness and whether alternative methods should be used to help consumers demonstrate creditworthiness; and
Whereas, the collection of data concerning the additional charges and fees such as late payment charges, deposits, third-party fees for credit card or electronic payments, and reconnection charges are measures of the impact that customers are experiencing paying utility bills; and
Whereas, evaluations concerning the design and effectiveness of payment extensions and multi-month payment plans, including the number of disconnections avoided through the use of payment plans, can be performed much more effectively when there is a basis for evaluation through quantitative data uniformly reported across comparable utilities; and
Whereas, data concerning the length of time that customers are living without gas and or electric services following disconnections for non-payment is indicative of the difficulty consumers are experiencing securing access to continuous, essential utility services; and
Whereas, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (“NARUC”)
has previously passed a resolution4 supporting the gathering of terminations and arrearages data, including an emphasis on bringing interested stakeholders to the process of developing strategies for using such data effectively;
Now, therefore, be it resolved, that NASUCA urges the states to collect uniform data on gas and electric billing, arrearages and disconnections;
Be it further resolved, that NASUCA urges the states to adopt uniform reporting standards, enabled by reporting category requirements that are carefully defined and explained, such that commissions and advocates can view the data obtained from separate utilities for each reporting category alongside other utilities within the same industry, and draw not only utility-specific conclusions but industry-wide conclusions by aggregating the data, regarding the effectiveness or impact of specific disconnection, credit and collection practices or policies;
Be it further resolved, that NASUCA supports the collection and reporting of publicly available data on billings, arrearages and collections that enables an understanding of issues of affordability impacting customers in paying utility bills and the effectiveness of available resources to help consumers;
Be it further resolved, that NASUCA supports the collection and reporting of data on billing arrearages and disconnections that is timely enough for prompt analysis as needed;
Be it further resolved, that NASUCA supports the accessibility of uniform and reliably collected disconnections, credit and collection, billing and arrearages data to enable commissions and advocates to better evaluate credit and collection policies and practices, and setting and adopting benchmark standards and best practices;
Be it further resolved, that NASUCA supports the uniform gathering of the following defined data by the states on an annual basis:
a. number of residential customers who were required to pay a deposit to demonstrate creditworthiness to initiate gas or electric service and the average amount of the deposit;
b. number of residential customers who used alternative methods to a deposit to demonstrate financial responsibility while initiating service;
c. number of residential customers who were required to pay a deposit to initiate gas or electric service but were unable to do so;
d. number of customers enrolled in each specific and distinct low-income payment plan;
e. average payment amount for customers in each specific and distinct low-income payment plan;
f. number of customers enrolled in every other type of payment plans offered by the utility to other (non-low-income) customers;
g. the aggregate dollar amount that is being deferred in each specific and distinct type of low-income or other payment plan;
h. the aggregate dollar amount that has been collected in each specific and distinct type of low-income and other payment plan;
i. number of customers who defaulted on each specific and distinct type of payment plan;
j. provide the dollar value and number of residential accounts (and low-income accounts) written off as gross uncollectibles, in that the accounts have been written off and sent to a collection agency;
k. the dollar value and number of residential accounts (and low-income accounts) written off as net uncollectibles, in that the accounts have been written off after a collection agency has failed to collect payment;
l. separately provide the total number of accounts in arrears between 30 – 60 days, 60 – 90 days, more than 90 days;
m. separately provide the total dollar amount of the arrears that were owed between 30 – 60 days, 60 -90 days, more than 90 days;
n. number of residential customers receiving a disconnection notice;
o. number of low-income customers receiving a disconnection notice;
p. number of residential customers disconnected for non-payment;
q. number of low-income customers disconnected for nonpayment;
r. number of customers enrolled in a low-income payment assistance program when they were disconnected for non-payment;
s. number of residential customers who used special medical certification procedures to avoid disconnection;
t. separately provide the number of residential disconnections, and low-income residential disconnections, where service was reconnected within ten business days, ten to thirty days, thirty to sixty days, sixty to ninety days, and greater than ninety days.
Be it further resolved, that NASUCA supports the gathering and reporting of information related to the number of residential customers who received LIHEAP, fuel funds, or other financial assistance and the average amount of assistance received;
Be it further resolved, that NASUCA supports the gathering and reporting of the additional charges and fees that consumers pay on an annual basis to pay utility bills
a. to pay bills at authorized agents of the utilities;
b. to pay bills via credit cards or electronic checks;
c. in late payment charges;
d. in reconnection charges.
Be it further resolved, that NASUCA authorizes its Executive Committee to develop specific positions and take appropriate actions consistent with the terms of this resolution. The Executive Committee shall advise the membership of any proposed action prior to taking action if possible. In any event the Executive Committee shall notify the membership of any action pursuant to this resolution.
Submitted by Consumer Protection Committee
Approved June 28, 2011
San Antonio, Texas
 2008 Individual State Report by the NARUC Consumer Affairs Subcommittee on Collections Data Gathering, NARUC Consumer Affairs Committee (Nov. 17, 2008), http://www.naruc.org/Publications/2008%20NARUC%20Collections%20Survey%20Report.pdf.
 Tracking the Home Energy Needs of Low-income Households Through Trend Data on Arrearages and Disconnections, National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (May 2004), available at http://www.neada.org/publications/TrackingtheNeed.pdf.
, Ron Grosse, Wisconsin Public Service Corporation, with Collaboration of Nancy Brockway, National Regulatory Research Institute (Revised 2008), available at http://nrri.org/pubs/multiutility/Win-WinAlternativesforCreditCollections.pdf.
 National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, Resolution Supporting the Gathering of Data for Electric and Natural Gas Distribution Companies by Individual State Utility Commissions or Energy Offices (Nov. 14, 2007), available at http://www.naruc.org/resolutions.cfm.