Cold weather rule comes into effect on November 1

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A Missouri Civil Service Commission rule designed to help customers struggling with heating-related utility bills begins Monday.

Dubbed the PSC Cold Weather Rule, it applies to natural gas and electricity utilities under the jurisdiction of the PSC that provide heat-related services. Systems operated by municipalities, co-ops and those supplying truck-delivered propane are outside the jurisdiction of the PSC.

The rule, which will remain in effect until March 31, has been part of the commission’s rules and regulations since 1977.

Under the rule:

• Disconnection of heat related service is prohibited when the temperature is expected to drop below 32 degrees during the next 24 hour period.

• More lenient payment terms are planned, allowing service to be reconnected for natural gas and / or electricity customers.

• Customers are allowed to budget payments over 12 months.

• Customers must be notified by mail 10 days before the date the utility intends to terminate the service. An attempt must be made to contact the customer within 96 hours of shutdown. An attempt should also be made to contact the customer immediately prior to the shutdown. A notice is left at the house when the service has been cut.

• The customer must be informed of possible financial assistance for the payment of the electricity bill.

• Service reconnection is permitted for less than the total amount due.

A customer can register for the cold weather rule with their utility if:

• They are 65 years of age or over;

• are disabled insofar as they have filed with the public service a form submitted by a doctor certifying that their household must have a public service of natural gas or electricity at home to maintain life or health; Where

• They obtained an official award letter issued by the federal government for disability benefits.

A customer who is registered with the utility company as an elderly or disabled person will receive additional notifications prior to a proposed outage during the cold weather rule period. They may also be eligible for additional minimum payment terms.

If a customer is faced with an electricity bill related to heating that cannot be paid in full, he is invited to: contact his electricity company; declare an inability to pay the invoice in full; provide information on monthly or annual income; make a minimum payment; and enter into a payment agreement.

For more information on the rule, visit psc.mo.gov or call the commission’s consumer services hotline at 1-800-392-4211.

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