AARP Texas today filed a petition with the Public Utility Commission of Texas seeking an emergency rule to help residential electricity customers facing disconnection due to non-payment.
The request aims to help an unknown number of utility customers who may have built up high unpaid balances during a just-ended moratorium on utility disconnections. The PUC put the moratorium for non-payments in place in mid-February amid the winter storm that triggered widespread power outages and deaths across the state.
With the moratorium over, payment plans with favorable terms to consumers are now urgently needed to help electricity customers avoid dangerous disconnection, according to the AARP Texas petition. Customers may already be getting disconnection notices and may be entering deferred payment plans that are less friendly to consumers than what AARP Texas wants the PUC to make available.
“The message from the Legislature and the public in the wake of the February market failure is clear,” said AARP Texas Director Tina Tran. “We need regulators who are looking out for the public, not just electric companies. Giving ratepayers a better way to pay off big bills would be a step in the right direction.”
A PUC directive requires deferred payment plans to be offered to customers who request one through November. But the emergency action sought by AARP Texas calls for flexible payment terms to give customers a better chance to keep up with their bills and maintain electric service.
Specifically, the petition calls for deferred payment plans that could be entered into between June 24 and Aug. 17. Those plans should require an initial payment no greater than a third of the amount due, and an installment plan for the remaining balance, with those costs spread over at least nine billing cycles unless the customer agrees to fewer installments.
“The disconnection moratorium ending now is an exceptionally long event,” the petition reads. “Customers may have built up significantly higher unpaid balances than during normal times. It must be remembered that once a moratorium is lifted, customers with unpaid balances are again responsible for paying their current month’s balance and amounts associated with a deferred payment plan to avoid disconnection.”
AARP Texas advocates for fair and affordable utility rates and reliable service on behalf of its 2.3 million members in Texas. Tran said many of AARP’s members are on low or fixed incomes. Others have been adversely affected by the pandemic. She said many struggle to make ends meet and pay their bills. To read the AARP Texas petition in full, visit:
For interviews with AARP Texas Director Tina Tran, call Mark Hollis at 512.480.2429 or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.