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Puget Sound Energy fined $104,300
 
Oct. 12, 2010
Docket Number: U-100182
    OLYMPIA, Wash. – State regulators today fined Puget Sound Energy (PSE) $104,300 for improperly handling accounts of customers, including many low-income customers, disconnected for nonpayment.

    The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) assessed the penalty for 1,043 violations of state consumer protection rules, 965 of which were related to the disconnected accounts. UTC staff allege that PSE provided customers inaccurate or misleading information regarding how much they must pay in order to reconnect their electric or natural gas services. State Refusal of Service rules are designed to protect consumers when they are unable to pay their energy bills; need to be reconnected; and need to set up payment arrangements on the prior balance without a further threat of disconnection.

    The UTC also penalized the company for improperly applying energy assistance pledge funds made to low-income customers’ accounts. Energy assistance pledges are intended to help consumers keep the lights and heat on during the winter months. Commission staff cited PSE for improperly applying those funds to a prior balance, which led to additional threats of disconnection for customers.

    UTC staff initiated the investigation after a routine audit of consumer complaints. The investigation revealed that PSE continued to misapply the Refusal of Service rules, despite receiving instruction on properly applying the rules from UTC staff.

    The company must respond in 15 days by either paying the total penalty, requesting a hearing to challenge the violations, or asking for a reduction of the penalty.

    Bellevue-based PSE serves more than 1 million electric customers and about 750,000 natural gas customers, primarily in the Puget Sound region of Washington.

    The UTC is the state agency that regulates private, investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in Washington. It is the commission’s responsibility to ensure regulated companies provide safe and reliable service to customers at reasonable rates, while allowing them the opportunity to earn a fair profit.


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    Editor’s notes:
    1. To view a copy of the penalty assessment visit www.utc.wa.gov and enter 100182 into the Docket Lookup.
    2. The Refusal of Service rule is WAC 480-100-123(3) for electric customers; and WAC 480-90-123(2) for natural gas customers.

      EDITOR’S NOTE: A copy of the commission’s order is available at the UTC’s Web site: www.utc.wa.gov/072300

     

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