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Posted in: Ontario | Ratemaking | Consumer Protection | Practice & Procedure

Dec 19, 2018

OEB Takes Next Steps to Implement Changes to Utility Customer Service Rules

By David Stevens

On December 18, 2018, the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) issued a Notice setting out next steps to implement the findings in the Report on the Review of Customer Service Rules for Utilities (the Phase 1 report). These next steps include planned changes to the Board’s rules for electricity distributors (the Distribution System Code), gas distributors (the Gas Distribution Access Rule) and unit sub-metering providers (the Unit Sub-Metering Code). The OEB has also issued a draft Rate Order indicating that as of May 1, 2019, electricity distributors will no longer be permitted to impose a collection charge for unpaid accounts.

As explained in an earlier post, the OEB’s Phase 1 Report from its customer service rules review proposed many changes to customer service rules, as summarized in a five page chart. Areas identified for change include security deposits, minimum payment periods, equal billing, disconnections and reconnections, and certain customer charges. Many of these changes would also apply to unit sub-metering providers. Importantly, the OEB also indicated its plans to prescribe the contents for gas distributor conditions of service through changes to the Gas Distribution Access Rule.

Many interested parties submitted comments in response to the OEB’s Phase 1 report. The current Notice sets out the OEB’s response (which includes very few changes from the original proposals), along with details of the specific changes proposed to the OEB’s rules to implement the planned changes. Interested parties are invited to provide comments on the proposed changes to the OEB’s rules (and on the draft Rate Order) by January 18, 2019.

The OEB’s Notice also sets out the planned timing for the new/amended rules to be implemented.

The requirement to stop charging a collection of account charge, or a charge to install or remove a load control device, will come into effect on May 1, 2019.

As set out in the chart below, most of the changes to the Distribution System Code (DSC) and the Unit Sub-Metering Code (USMP Code) will come into effect three months after the OEB issues its final planned changes to each set of rules.

Proposed Amendment 

DSC Sections

USMP Code Sections
Amendments relating to allocation of payment 2.6.6.2C 4.5.9A
Amendments relating to security deposit requirements 2.4.9 and 2.4.9A to 2.4.9C 4.1.3 and 4.1.3A to 4.1.3C

Amendments relating to offering reasonable payment arrangements to small business customers unable to pay their bill

2.7.1, 2.7.1.1 and 2.7.8 4.6.1, 4.6.3 and 4.6.19

Amendments relating to winter disconnection and reconnection 

4.8 N/A

Amendments relating to consumer complaints response process 

1.2 and 10 1.2.1, 3.3.2.A, 3.3.3 – 3.3.12

Application of the reconnection charges:

  • Prohibiting electricity distributors from applying any charges when disconnecting a customer’s electricity service for non-payment
  • Requiring electricity distributors to apply the reconnection charge following the reconnection of service and to offer reasonable payment arrangements to residential customers unable to pay the charge
  • Requiring electricity distributors to waive the reconnection charge for eligible low-income customers 
4.2.5.1A, 4.2.5.2 and 4.2.5.3 N/A
Amendments relating to including the electricity distributors’ late payment policy in their conditions of service 2.4.6 N/A
Consequential amendments resulting from the elimination of certain non-payment of account charges 

2.7.6, 4.22(d)

N/A

 

Several other changes to these instruments will come into effect three months later.

Proposed Amendment  DSC Sections USMP Code Sections 
Extending the minimum payment period to 20 calendar days from 16 calendar days  2.6.3 4.5.3
Prohibiting electricity distributors from applying late payment charges to amounts that are under the OEB-prescribed APAs  2.7.6A  N/A 
Amendments relating to periods and timing of disconnection notice for non-payment reasons  4.2.2.3, 4.2.2.6, 4.2.2.7, 4.2.3, 4.2.3.1, 4.2.4A, and 4.2.5(d) 4.2.5F, 4.2.5H, 4.2.5I, 4.2.6, 4.2.6A, 4.2.7A, and 4.2.7B 

 

The changes to the Gas Distribution Access Rule (prescribing gas distributor conditions of service) will come into effect nine months after publication.

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