WSR 10-22-112

PROPOSED RULES

UTILITIES AND TRANSPORTATION

COMMISSION

[ Docket U-100523 -- Filed November 3, 2010, 8:14 a.m. ]

Original Notice.

Preproposal statement of inquiry was filed as WSR 10-08-094 and 10-16-143.

Title of Rule and Other Identifying Information: WAC 480-90-179 and 480-100-179, electronic information (new section); 480-90-103(3) and 480-100-103(3), information to consumers; WAC 480-90-153(2) and 480-100-153(2), disclosure of private information; WAC 480-90-153 (3) and (4), 480-100-153 (3) and (4), disclosure of private information (new section); WAC 480-90-178(4) and 480-100-178(4), billing requirement and payment date; WAC 480-90-194 and 480-100-194, publication of proposed tariff changes to increase charges or restrict access to services; WAC 480-90-194(1) and 480-100-194(1), thirty-day notice to individual customers; WAC 480-90-194 (3)(a) and 480-100-194 (3)(a), reduced publication with shortened notice to individual customers; and WAC 480-90-194 (5)(c) Optional method of publication for purchase gas adjustment (PGA).

The proposed rule changes would add a new rule and amend existing rules regarding the provision of information by electronic means.

Specifically, the proposed changes would allow companies to provide bills, notices of tariff revisions, bill inserts including inserts containing information required to be provided to customers or applicants by statute, or rule or commission orders by electronic means in lieu of the use of paper copies sent by United States mail, and the electronic permission for the disclosure of private information with the consent of the customer or other interested parties.

Further, the proposed rule clarifies the consent and disclosures required before the companies can provide the information by electronic means.

Hearing Location(s): Commission Hearing Room 206, Second Floor, Richard Hemstad Building, 1300 South Evergreen Park Drive S.W., Olympia, WA 98504-7250, on January 4, 2011, at 1:30 p.m.

Date of Intended Adoption: January 4, 2011.

Submit Written Comments to: Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, 1300 South Evergreen Park Drive S.W., P.O. Box 47250, Olympia, WA 98504-7250, e-mail records@utc.wa.gov, fax (360) 586-1150, by December 6, 2010.

Assistance for Persons with Disabilities: Contact Susan Holman by December 20, 2010, TTY (360) 586-8203 or (360) 664-1243.

Purpose of the Proposal and Its Anticipated Effects, Including Any Changes in Existing Rules: The Washington utilities and transportation commission (UTC) is responsible for protecting consumers by ensuring that investor-owned utility services are fairly priced, available, and reliable and by improving the flow of information to allow for more customer choices. E-mailing of bills is not provided for in the Washington Administrative Code rules (chapters 480-90 and 480-100 WAC). In lieu of required use of paper copies, companies request the option to provide customers or other interested persons electronic bills, notices of tariff revisions, and bill inserts and to allow electronic permission for the disclosure of private information with the consent of the customer or other interested parties. This may, among other things, save mailing and printing costs.

Reasons Supporting Proposal: See above.

Statutory Authority for Adoption: RCW 80.01.040, 80.04.160.

Statute Being Implemented: Not applicable.

Rule is not necessitated by federal law, federal or state court decision.

Name of Proponent: Washington utilities and transportation commission, governmental.

Name of Agency Personnel Responsible for Drafting: Roger Kouchi, 1300 South Evergreen Park Drive S.W., Olympia, WA 98504, (360) 664-1101; Implementation and Enforcement: David W. Danner, 1300 South Evergreen Park Drive S.W., Olympia, WA 98504, (360) 664-1208.

No small business economic impact statement has been prepared under chapter 19.85 RCW. With the CR-101, the UTC elicited comments from interested persons regarding the economic impact of the proposed changes. The proposed rules incorporate changes proposed by interested parties and will not result in or impose more than minor costs. Because there will not be more than minor increase in costs resulting from the proposed rule changes, a small business economic impact statement is not required under RCW 19.85.030(1).

A cost-benefit analysis is not required under RCW 34.05.328. The commission is not an agency to which RCW 34.05.328 applies. The proposed rules are not significant legislative rules of the sort referenced in RCW 34.05.328(5).

November 3, 2010

David W. Danner

Executive Director

and Secretary

OTS-3750.1


AMENDATORY SECTION(Amending Docket No. UG-990294, General Order No. R-484, filed 5/3/01, effective 6/3/01)

WAC 480-90-103   Information to consumers.   (1) Each gas utility must make available at each of its listed business offices information regarding rates, rules, and regulations needed for its customers and applicants to obtain adequate and efficient service.

(2) The utility must maintain a toll-free telephone number available for its applicants and customers during business hours to receive information relating to services and rates, to accept and process orders for service, to explain charges on customer bills, to adjust charges made in error, to respond to customer inquiries and complaints, and to generally act as representatives of the utility.

(3) The utility must provide to each applicant relevant rate information and a brochure that explains the rights and responsibilities of a utility customer. The brochure must include, at a minimum, information about the utility's regular business hours, the utility's mailing address, the utility's toll-free number, the twenty-four hour emergency number(s), and an explanation of the utility's processes to establish credit, deposits, billing, delinquent accounts, disconnection of service initiated by the utility, cancellation of service by the customer, the dispute resolution process, and the commission's informal complaint procedures to be followed if the customer remains dissatisfied with the utility's dispute process. The utility may provide this information in an electronic format consistent with provisions in this chapter governing the use of electronic information.

(4) At least once each year, the utility must directly advise each of its customers how to obtain:

(a) A copy of the consumer brochure described in subsection (3) of this section;

(b) A copy of the customer's applicable rate information;

(c) A copy of the gas rules, chapter 480-90 WAC; and

(d) A copy of the utility's current rates and regulations.

(5) The utility must provide an applicant, upon request, the high and low bills for the requested service premises during the prior calendar year, if such data is available.

(6) The utility must provide a customer, upon request, a detailed account of the customer's actual natural gas usage at the service premises for the previous twelve-month period, if such data is available.

(7) The utility must provide customers information comparing energy usage for the current month and the same billing month of the previous year, if available, either on the customers' bills or upon request as follows:

(a) Number of days in billing period;

(b) Therms used; and

(c) Average therms used per day.

(8) The utility must provide the commission with electronic or paper copies of all pamphlets, brochures, and bill inserts of regulated service information at the same time the utility delivers such material to its customers.

[Statutory Authority: RCW 80.01.040 and 80.04.160. 01-11-003 (Docket No. UG-990294, General Order No. R-484), 480-90-103, filed 5/3/01, effective 6/3/01.]


AMENDATORY SECTION(Amending Docket No. A-030832, General Order No. R-509, filed 10/29/03, effective 11/29/03)

WAC 480-90-153   Disclosure of private information.   (1) A gas utility may not disclose or sell private consumer information with or to its affiliates, subsidiaries, or any other third party for the purposes of marketing services or product offerings to a customer who does not already subscribe to that service or product, unless the utility has first obtained the customer's written or electronic permission to do so.

(2) Private consumer information includes the customer's name, address, telephone number, and any other personally identifying information, as well as information related to the quantity, technical configuration, type, destination, and amount of use of service or products subscribed to by a customer of a regulated utility that is available to the utility solely by virtue of the customer-utility relationship. For each individual service or product offering, the utility must obtain and maintain a record of customer consent for the disclosure of private consumer information.

(3) The utility must obtain customer disclosure permission for each individual service, product offering or disclosure and maintain a record of each permission for the disclosure of private customer information.

(4) The utility will ensure the following specific information is retained when the customer consent for disclosure of private customer information is provided electronically:

(a) The confirmation of consent for the disclosure of private customer information;

(b) A list of the service, product offering or disclosure with respect to which the customer has authorized disclosure of his or her private customer information; and

(c) A confirmation that the name, service address, and account number exactly matches the utility record for such account.

(((3))) (5) This section does not prevent disclosure of the essential terms and conditions of special contracts as provided for in WAC 480-80-143 (Special contracts for gas, electric, and water companies).

(((4))) (6) This section does not prevent the utility from inserting any marketing information into the customer's billing package.

(((5))) (7) The utility may collect and release customer information in aggregate form if the aggregated information does not allow any specific customer to be identified.

[Statutory Authority: RCW 80.01.040, 80.04.160, 81.04.160, and 34.05.353. 03-22-046 (Docket No. A-030832, General Order No. R-509), 480-90-153, filed 10/29/03, effective 11/29/03. Statutory Authority: RCW 80.01.040 and 80.04.160. 01-20-059 (Docket No. UG-990294, General Order No. R-488), 480-90-153, filed 9/28/01, effective 10/29/01.]


AMENDATORY SECTION(Amending Docket No. UG-990294, General Order No. R-484, filed 5/3/01, effective 6/3/01)

WAC 480-90-178   Billing requirements and payment date.   (1) Customer bills must:

(a) Be issued at intervals not to exceed two one-month billing cycles, unless the utility can show good cause for delaying the issuance of the bill. The utility must be able to show good cause if requested by the commission;

(b) Show the total amount due and payable;

(c) Show the date the bill becomes delinquent if not paid;

(d) Show the utility's business address, business hours, and toll-free telephone number and emergency telephone number by which a customer may contact the utility;

(e) Show the current and previous meter readings, the current read date, and the total amount of therms used;

(f) Show the amount of therms used for each billing rate, the applicable billing rates per therm, the basic charge or minimum bill;

(g) Show the amount of any municipal tax surcharges or their respective percentage rates;

(h) Clearly identify when a bill has been prorated. A prorated bill must be issued when service is provided for a fraction of the billing period. Unless otherwise specified in the utility's tariff, the charge must be prorated in the following manner:

(i) Flat-rate service must be prorated on the basis of the proportionate part of the period that service was rendered;

(ii) Metered service must be billed for the amount metered. The basic or minimum charge must be billed in full;

(i) Clearly identify when a bill is based on an estimation.

(i) A utility must detail its method(s) for estimating customer bills in its tariff;

(ii) The utility may not estimate for more than four consecutive months unless the cause of the estimation is inclement weather, terrain, or a previous arrangement with the customer; and

(j) Clearly identify determination of maximum demand. A utility providing service to any customer on a demand basis must detail in its filed tariff the method of applying charges and of ascertaining the demand.

(2) The minimum time allowed for payment after the bill's mailing date must be fifteen days, if mailed from within the states of Washington, Oregon, or Idaho, or eighteen days if mailed from outside the states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

(3) The utility must allow a customer to change a designated payment-due date when the customer has a satisfactory reason for the change. A satisfactory reason may include, but is not limited to, adjustment of a designated payment-due date to parallel receipt of income. The preferred payment date must be prior to the next billing date.

(4) With the consent of the customer, a utility may provide billings in electronic form if the bill meets all the requirements for the use of electronic information in this chapter. The utility must maintain a record of the consent as a part of the customer's account record, and the customer may change from electronic to printed billing upon request, as provided in this chapter. The utility must complete the change within two billing cycles of the request.

[Statutory Authority: RCW 80.01.040 and 80.04.160. 01-11-003 (Docket No. UG-990294, General Order No. R-484), 480-90-178, filed 5/3/01, effective 6/3/01.]


NEW SECTION
WAC 480-90-179   Electronic information.   With the prior consent of the customer or applicant, a utility may provide the following by electronic means, by transmission to the customer's e-mail address, instead of in paper copy sent to the customer's mailing address:

Bills;

Notices of tariff revisions; and

Bill inserts containing information required to be provided to customers or applicants by statute, rule, or commission order.

The provision of this electronic information to a customer will be considered compliant with any statute, rule, commission order, or tariff provision that refers to the mailing of bills, notices of tariff revisions or bill inserts when a customer has consented to receive the information in electronic form, provided that the e-mail includes the information, provides a link to the electronic information, or otherwise advises the customer of the electronic location of such information.

(1) Format of electronic communications. All information provided in electronic form must meet the requirements for format, due dates, calculation of due dates, minimum time frames, and any other requirements specified in this chapter. Electronic information will be treated the same as documents that are mailed from a location within the state of Washington for the purposes of calculating due dates and minimum time frames.

(2) Obtaining and documenting customer consent. The utility must obtain prior written or electronic consent to provide prescribed information in electronic form (customer consent). The customer consent must be obtained directly from the customer of record and comply with the following:

(a) The consent section on the document, screen, or web page may also offer the customer separate, individual opportunities to consent to:

(i) Paperless billing.

(ii) Automatic payment services.

(iii) Equal payment plan.

No other information may be combined on the same document, screen or web page except company contact information. The customer must personally check each box or space giving his or her consent to one or more services. Each service requires a separate, affirmative consent. The consent screen must not have the consent box or space already filled in.

(b) The utility must retain a record of the customer's consent as a part of the customer's account records as evidence of the customer's consent to receive selected documents in electronic form, or to participate in paperless billing or automatic payment services or to participate in the utility's equal payment service.

(c) Documentation of the consent must be made available to the customer and to the commission at no charge, if requested.

(d) At a minimum, the customer consent must include the following:

(i) The name, service address, and account number that exactly matches the utility record for such account;

(ii) The customer's opt-in decision to choose electronic information;

(iii) Confirmation that the customer understands the utility will provide, upon request, a paper copy of any document sent electronically at no additional charge and that the customer may opt out of receiving information electronically at any time and revert to paper format through the mail at no additional charge;

(iv) Confirmation that the customer understands it is their responsibility to notify the utility of any change to their e-mail or other electronic address; and

(v) Confirmation that the customer understands that in addition to the paperless bills they will now receive all notices regarding service, including notices of the utility's request to increase rates and changes in service, in electronic form.

(3) Distribution of electronic notices.

(a) Electronic notices of proposed tariff changes, including increased rates or restriction of access to services, and public hearings will be marked prominently "IMPORTANT NOTICE REGARDING YOUR GAS SERVICE." (Note: For combined service customers the caption must read "ELECTRIC AND GAS SERVICES.")

(b) If the utility elects to send the notices of proposed tariff changes or public hearings separate from the bill, it will also include a copy of the electronic notice with the electronic bill as an attachment or link. The attachment or link will include the electronic address designated by the commission where customers may file public comment(s) regarding the proposed tariff changes or restriction of access to service.

(4) Documents requiring paper delivery. The following documents may not be provided solely by electronic means:

(a) Notices of disconnection; and

(b) Information regarding the winter moratorium on disconnection of low-income heating customers, including written copies, if any, of extended payment plans under the winter low-income payment program.

(5) Limit on changes to information format. A utility is not obligated to provide both paper documents and electronic information to a customer on a continuous basis. A utility may limit a customer who has consented to electronic delivery to three requests for paper documents in a twelve-month period. A utility may require that a customer who requests an electronic bill also receive all bill inserts electronically. If a customer is unable to properly receive, view or understand electronic information provided by the utility, the utility may refuse to provide that information in electronic form.

(6) Specialized electronic format. When a utility provides electronic billing information in a specialized format, such as, but not limited to, the electronic data interchange (EDI), where the utility incurs a cost that is offset by not sending statements using mail, the utility may offer customers the choice of the specialized format or paper bill. In the event of a disputed bill, the customer may request and the utility shall provide customers receiving bills in a specialized format with billing details understandable by a person who will be reviewing the bills.

(7) Undeliverable electronic documents. If any electronic information allowed in this rule is returned to the utility as undeliverable or the utility is made aware by other means that such electronic information did not reach the customer, the utility must take the following steps to ensure customer receipt:

(a) The utility must send the information to the customer-provided e-mail address one additional time, the next business day. If the additional attempt fails, the company must send the customer the information by mail the next business day and automatically return the customer to mail notification; and

(b) The utility must include an explanation with the mailed information that the e-mail address is not functioning. The company must explain that future information will be sent via mail until a functioning e-mail address has been provided to the company. A second verification is not required.

[]


AMENDATORY SECTION(Amending Docket No. U-991301, General Order No. R-498, filed 5/14/02, effective 6/17/02)

WAC 480-90-194   Publication of proposed tariff changes to increase charges or restrict access to services.   Each gas utility offering service under tariff must publish or provide electronically all proposed changes to its tariff for at least thirty days, as required by RCW 80.28.060. For any proposed tariff change that would increase recurring charges, except purchased gas adjustment (PGA) filings as provided in subsection (5) of this section, or restrict access to services (e.g., discontinue a service, or limit access to service by imposing a new usage level on existing services), a utility must fulfill the requirements of subsection (1), (2), or (3) of this section. For any other proposed tariffs, the utility must fulfill the requirements of WAC 480-90-195. The utility may provide this information in an electronic format consistent with provisions in this chapter governing the use of electronic information.

The utility will not be required to accomplish publication under this section if it has agreed to suspend its tariff filing and to provide notice as provided under WAC 480-90-197.

(1) Thirty-day notice to individual customers. To comply under this method, the utility must, at least thirty days before the stated effective date of the proposed change, mail or provide electronically the posting to each customer that would be affected by the proposed change. The posting must include the information listed in subsection (4) of this section. The utility may provide this information in an electronic format consistent with provisions in this chapter governing the use of electronic information.

(2) Published notice. To comply under this method, the utility must, at least thirty days before the stated effective date of the proposed change, publish notice of the proposed change within the geographical areas where it offers service. To meet minimum publication requirements, a utility must:

(a) Distribute copies of the published notice to community agencies and organizations in the geographic area where the utility offers service for posting and publication by the agency or organization. The utility must include in its distribution list any agency or organization that requests these notices;

(b) Cause to be printed in large print, as a paid advertisement, a complete copy of the published notice in the daily newspaper of general circulation with the greatest number of subscribers in each geographic area or each of the areas affected by the proposed tariff;

(c) Provide to the news editor of every newspaper, television station, and radio station, in the geographic area within which it offers service a news release or public service announcement summarizing the published notice. The release or announcement must include a toll-free number that customers can use to obtain more information from the utility. The commission will maintain a list of area newspapers, television, and radio stations and will provide it on request to any utility; and

(d) Post a complete copy of the published notice on an Internet web site accessible to the public using generally available browser software.

(3) Reduced publication with shortened notice to individual customers. To comply under this method, the utility must:

(a) Mail or provide electronically the posting to each customer that would be affected by the proposed change at least fifteen days before the stated effective date of the proposed change. The utility may provide this information in an electronic format consistent with provisions in this chapter governing the use of electronic information;

(b) At the time of the utility's filing with the commission, distribute copies of the published notice in the same manner as provided in subsection (2)(a) of this section;

(c) At the time of the utility's filing with the commission, provide news media notice in the same manner as provided in subsection (2)(c) of this section; and

(d) At the time of the utility's filing with the commission, post a complete copy of the published notice in the same manner as provided in subsection (2)(d) of this section.

(4) Content of postings. The published notice required by this rule must include, when applicable:

(a) The date the notice is issued;

(b) The utility's name and address;

(c) A brief explanation of the reason(s) the utility has requested the rate change (e.g., increase in labor costs, recovery of new plant investment, and increased office expenses, such as postage and customer billing);

(d) A comparison of current and proposed rates by service;

(e) An example showing the monthly increase of the average customer's bill based on the proposed rates (e.g., "based on the proposed rates, a typical gas customer using an average of eighty therms per month would see an average monthly increase of $2.74.");

(f) When the rates will be billed (i.e., monthly or bimonthly);

(g) The requested effective date and, if different, the implementation date;

(h) A statement that the commission has the authority to set final rates that may vary from the utility's request, which may be either higher or lower depending on the results of the investigation;

(i) A description of how customers may contact the utility if they have specific questions or need additional information about the proposal; and

(j) Public involvement language. A utility may choose from:

(i) Commission-suggested language that is available from the commission's designated public affairs officer; or

(ii) Utility-developed language that must include the commission's mailing address, toll-free number, and docket number, if known, and a brief explanation of:

(A) How to participate in the commission's process by mailing or faxing a letter, or submitting an e-mail; and

(B) How to contact the commission for process questions or to be notified of the scheduled open meeting at which the proposal will be considered by the commission.

(5) Optional method of publication for purchase gas adjustment (PGA). A utility that publishes notice of a PGA filing pursuant to this subsection is not required to publish notice of the filing pursuant to subsection (1), (2), or (3) of this section.

(a) The utility must provide notice to affected customers before and after final commission disposition. Notice before commission disposition is to educate customers of a potential increase in natural gas prices. Notice after commission disposition is to inform customers of the new rates.

(b) Prior PGA notice. The notice must:

(i) Clearly define what a PGA is and explain how it works;

(ii) State whether the utility expects an increase or decrease in the upcoming filing; and

(iii) Include a utility contact phone number for additional information.

(c) The utility must ((mail)) provide the notice to each affected customer by mail or by electronic means consistent with the provisions in this chapter governing the use of electronic information. The utility must also send the notice or a press release about the increase to every daily paper within its service territory.

(d) A newsletter, bill insert, bill message, or separate mailing to customers is permitted for prior notice.

(e) Customer notice after final commission disposition must be provided pursuant to WAC 480-90-195.

[Statutory Authority: RCW 80.01.040 and 80.04.180. 02-11-081 (Docket No. U-991301, General Order No. R-498), 480-90-194, filed 5/14/02, effective 6/17/02.]

OTS-3751.1


AMENDATORY SECTION(Amending Docket No. UE-990473, General Order No. R-482, filed 5/3/01, effective 6/3/01)

WAC 480-100-103   Information to consumers.   (1) An electric utility must make available at each of its listed business offices information regarding rates, rules, and regulations needed for its customers and applicants to obtain adequate and efficient service.

(2) The utility must maintain a toll-free telephone number available for its applicants and customers during business hours to receive information relating to services and rates, to accept and process orders for service, to explain charges on customer bills, to adjust charges made in error, to respond to customer inquiries and complaints, and to generally act as representatives of the utility.

(3) The utility must provide to each applicant relevant rate information and a brochure that explains the rights and responsibilities of a utility customer. The brochure must include, at a minimum, information about the utility's regular business hours, the utility's mailing address, the utility's toll-free number, the twenty-four hour emergency number(s), and an explanation of the utility's processes to establish credit, deposits, billing, delinquent accounts, disconnection of service initiated by the utility, cancellation of service by the customer, the dispute resolution process, and the commission's informal complaint procedures to be followed if the customer remains dissatisfied with the utility's dispute process. The utility may provide this information in an electronic format consistent with provisions in this chapter governing the use of electronic information.

(4) At least once each year, the utility must directly advise each of its customers how to obtain:

(a) A copy of the consumer brochure described in subsection (3) of this section;

(b) A copy of the customer's applicable rate information;

(c) A copy of the electric rules, chapter 480-100 WAC; and

(d) A copy of the utility's current rates and regulations.

(5) The utility must provide an applicant, upon request, the high and low bills for the requested service premises during the prior calendar year, if such data is available.

(6) The utility must provide a customer, upon request, a detailed account of the customer's actual electric usage at the service premises for the previous twelve-month period, if such data is available.

(7) The utility must provide customers information comparing energy usage for the current month and same billing month of the previous year, if available, either on the customers' bills or upon request, as follows:

(a) Number of days in billing period;

(b) Kilowatt hours used; and

(c) Average kilowatt hours used per day.

(8) The utility must provide the commission with electronic or paper copies of all pamphlets, brochures, and bill inserts of regulated service information at the same time the utility delivers such material to its customers.

[Statutory Authority: RCW 80.01.040 and 80.04.160. 01-11-004 (Docket No. UE-990473, General Order No. R-482), 480-100-103, filed 5/3/01, effective 6/3/01.]


AMENDATORY SECTION(Amending Docket No. A-030832, General Order No. R-509, filed 10/29/03, effective 11/29/03)

WAC 480-100-153   Disclosure of private information.   (1) An electric utility may not disclose or sell private consumer information with or to its affiliates, subsidiaries, or any other third party for the purposes of marketing services or product offerings to a customer who does not already subscribe to that service or product, unless the utility has first obtained the customer's written or electronic permission to do so.

(2) Private consumer information includes the customer's name, address, telephone number, and any other personally identifying information, as well as information related to the quantity, technical configuration, type, destination, and amount of use of service or products subscribed to by a customer of a regulated utility that is available to the utility solely by virtue of the customer-utility relationship. For each individual service or product offering, the utility must obtain and maintain a record of customer consent for the disclosure of private consumer information.

(3) The utility must obtain customer disclosure permission for each individual service, product offering or disclosure and maintain a record of each permission for the disclosure of private customer information.

(4) The utility will ensure the following specific information is retained when the customer consent for disclosure of private customer information is provided electronically:

(a) The confirmation of consent for the disclosure of private customer information;

(b) A list of the service, product offering or disclosure with respect to which the customer has authorized disclosure of his or her private customer information; and

(c) A confirmation that the name, service address, and account number exactly matches the utility record for such account.

(((3))) (5) This section does not prevent disclosure of the essential terms and conditions of special contracts as provided for in WAC 480-80-143 (Special contracts for gas, electric, and water companies).

(((4))) (6) This section does not prevent the utility from inserting any marketing information into the customer's billing package.

(((5))) (7) The utility may collect and release customer information in aggregate form if the aggregated information does not allow any specific customer to be identified.

[Statutory Authority: RCW 80.01.040, 80.04.160, 81.04.160, and 34.05.353. 03-22-046 (Docket No. A-030832, General Order No. R-509), 480-100-153, filed 10/29/03, effective 11/29/03. Statutory Authority: RCW 80.01.040 and 80.04.160. 01-20-060 (Docket No. UE-990473, General Order No. R-489), 480-100-153, filed 9/28/01, effective 10/29/01.]


AMENDATORY SECTION(Amending Docket No. UE-990473, General Order No. R-482, filed 5/3/01, effective 6/3/01)

WAC 480-100-178   Billing requirements and payment date.   (1) Customer bills must:

(a) Be issued at intervals not to exceed two one-month billing cycles, unless the utility can show good cause for delaying the issuance of the bill. The utility must be able to show good cause if requested by the commission;

(b) Show the total amount due and payable;

(c) Show the date the bill becomes delinquent if not paid;

(d) Show the utility's business address, business hours, and a toll-free telephone number and an emergency telephone number by which a customer may contact the utility;

(e) Show the current and previous meter readings, the current read date, and the total amount of kilowatt hours used;

(f) Show the amount of kilowatt hours used for each billing rate, the applicable billing rates per kilowatt hour, the basic charge or minimum bill;

(g) Show the amount of any municipal tax surcharges or their respective percentage rates;

(h) Clearly identify when a bill has been prorated. A prorated bill must be issued when service is provided for a fraction of the billing period. Unless otherwise specified in the utility's tariff, the charge must be prorated in the following manner:

(i) Flat-rate service must be prorated on the basis of the proportionate part of the period the service was rendered;

(ii) Metered service must be billed for the amount metered. The basic or minimum charge must be billed in full.

(i) Clearly identify when a bill is based on an estimation.

(i) The utility must detail its method(s) for estimating customer bills in its tariff;

(ii) The utility may not estimate for more than four consecutive months, unless the cause of the estimation is inclement weather, terrain, or a previous arrangement with the customer;

(j) Clearly identify determination of maximum demand. A utility providing service to any customer on a demand basis must detail in its filed tariff the method of applying charges and of ascertaining the demand.

(2) The minimum time allowed for payment after the bill's mailing date must be fifteen days, if mailed from within the states of Washington, Oregon, or Idaho, or eighteen days if mailed from outside the states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

(3) The utility must allow a customer to change a designated payment-due date when the customer has a satisfactory reason for the change. A satisfactory reason may include, but is not limited to, adjustment of a designated payment-due date to parallel receipt of income. The preferred payment date must be prior to the next billing date.

(4) With the consent of the customer, a utility may provide billings in electronic form if the bill meets all the requirements for the use of electronic information in this chapter. The utility must maintain a record of the consent as a part of the customer's account record, and the customer may change from electronic to printed billing upon request, as provided in this chapter. The utility must complete the change within two billing cycles of the request.

[Statutory Authority: RCW 80.01.040 and 80.04.160. 01-11-004 (Docket No. UE-990473, General Order No. R-482), 480-100-178, filed 5/3/01, effective 6/3/01.]


NEW SECTION
WAC 480-100-179   Electronic information.   With the prior consent of the customer or applicant, a utility may provide the following by electronic means, by transmission to the customer's e-mail address, instead of in paper copy sent to the customer's mailing address:

Bills;

Notices of tariff revisions; and

Bill inserts containing information required to be provided to customers or applicants by statute, rule, or commission order.

The provision of this electronic information to a customer will be considered compliant with any statute, rule, commission order, or tariff provision that refers to the mailing of bills, notices of tariff revisions or bill inserts when a customer has consented to receive the information in electronic form, provided that the e-mail includes the information, provides a link to the electronic information, or otherwise advises the customer of the electronic location of such information.

(1) Format of electronic communications. All information provided in electronic form must meet the requirements for format, due dates, calculation of due dates, minimum time frames, and any other requirements specified in this chapter. Electronic information will be treated the same as documents that are mailed from a location within the state of Washington for the purposes of calculating due dates and minimum time frames.

(2) Obtaining and documenting customer consent. The utility must obtain prior written or electronic consent to provide prescribed information in electronic form (customer consent). The customer consent must be obtained directly from the customer of record and comply with the following:

(a) The consent section on the document, screen, or web page may also offer the customer separate, individual opportunities to consent to:

(i) Paperless billing.

(ii) Automatic payment services.

(iii) Equal payment plan.

No other information may be combined on the same document, screen or web page except company contact information. The customer must personally check each box or space giving his or her consent to one or more services. Each service requires a separate, affirmative consent. The consent screen must not have the consent box or space already filled in.

(b) The utility must retain a record of the customer's consent as a part of the customer's account records as evidence of the customer's consent to receive selected documents in electronic form, or to participate in paperless billing or automatic payment services or to participate in the utility's equal payment service.

(c) Documentation of the consent must be made available to the customer and to the commission at no charge, if requested.

(d) At a minimum, the customer consent must include the following:

(i) The name, service address, and account number that exactly matches the utility record for such account;

(ii) The customer's opt-in decision to choose electronic information;

(iii) Confirmation that the customer understands the utility will provide, upon request, a paper copy of any document sent electronically at no additional charge and that the customer may opt out of receiving information electronically at any time and revert to paper format through the mail at no additional charge;

(iv) Confirmation that the customer understands it is their responsibility to notify the utility of any change to their e-mail or other electronic address; and

(v) Confirmation that the customer understands that in addition to the paperless bills they will now receive all notices regarding service, including notices of the utility's request to increase rates and changes in service, in electronic form.

(3) Distribution of electronic notices.

(a) Electronic notices of proposed tariff changes, including increased rates or restriction of access to services, and public hearings will be marked prominently "IMPORTANT NOTICE REGARDING YOUR ELECTRIC SERVICE." (Note: For combined service customers the caption must read "ELECTRIC AND GAS SERVICES.")

(b) If the utility elects to send the notices of proposed tariff changes or public hearings separate from the bill, it will also include a copy of the electronic notice with the electronic bill as an attachment or link. The attachment or link will include the electronic address designated by the commission where customers may file public comment(s) regarding the proposed tariff changes or restriction of access to service.

(4) Documents requiring paper delivery. The following documents may not be provided solely by electronic means:

(a) Notices of disconnection; and

(b) Information regarding the winter moratorium on disconnection of low-income heating customers, including written copies, if any, of extended payment plans under the winter low-income payment program.

(5) Limit on changes to information format. A utility is not obligated to provide both paper documents and electronic information to a customer on a continuous basis. A utility may limit a customer who has consented to electronic delivery to three requests for paper documents in a twelve-month period. A utility may require that a customer who requests an electronic bill also receive all bill inserts electronically. If a customer is unable to properly receive, view or understand electronic information provided by the utility, the utility may refuse to provide that information in electronic form.

(6) Specialized electronic format. When a utility provides electronic billing information in a specialized format, such as, but not limited to, the electronic data interchange (EDI), where the utility incurs a cost that is offset by not sending statements using mail, the utility may offer customers the choice of the specialized format or paper bill. In the event of a disputed bill, the customer may request and the utility shall provide customers receiving bills in a specialized format with billing details understandable by a person who will be reviewing the bills.

(7) Undeliverable electronic documents. If any electronic information allowed in this rule is returned to the utility as undeliverable or the utility is made aware by other means that such electronic information did not reach the customer, the utility must take the following steps to ensure customer receipt:

(a) The utility must send the information to the customer-provided e-mail address one additional time, the next business day. If the additional attempt fails, the company must send the customer the information by mail the next business day and automatically return the customer to mail notification; and

(b) The utility must include an explanation with the mailed information that the e-mail address is not functioning. The company must explain that future information will be sent via mail until a functioning e-mail address has been provided to the company. A second verification is not required.

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AMENDATORY SECTION(Amending Docket No. U-991301, General Order No. R-498, filed 5/14/02, effective 6/17/02)

WAC 480-100-194   Publication of proposed tariff changes to increase charges or restrict access to services.   Each electric utility offering service under tariff must publish or provide electronically all proposed changes to its tariff for at least thirty days, as required by RCW 80.28.060. For any proposed tariff change that would increase recurring or per-occurrence charges or restrict access to services (e.g., discontinue a service, or limit access to service by imposing a new usage level on existing services), a utility must fulfill the requirements of subsection (1), (2), or (3) of this section. For any other proposed tariffs, the utility must fulfill the requirements of WAC 480-100-195. The utility will not be required to accomplish publication under this section if it has agreed to suspend its tariff filing and to provide notice as provided under WAC 480-100-197. The utility may provide the information in an electronic format consistent with provisions in this chapter governing the use of electronic information.

(1) Thirty-day notice to individual customers. To comply under this method, the utility must, at least thirty days before the stated effective date of the proposed change, mail or provide electronically the posting to each customer that would be affected by the proposed change. The posting must include the information listed in subsection (4) of this section. The utility may provide this information in an electronic format consistent with provisions in this chapter governing the use of electronic information.

(2) Published notice. To comply under this method, the utility must, at least thirty days before the stated effective date of the proposed change, publish notice of the proposed change within the geographical areas where it offers service. To meet minimum publication requirements, a utility must:

(a) Distribute copies of the published notice to community agencies and organizations in the geographic area where it offers service for posting and publication by the agency or organization. The utility must include in its distribution list any agency or organization that requests these notices;

(b) Cause to be printed in large print, as a paid advertisement, a complete copy of the published notice in the daily newspaper of general circulation with the greatest number of subscribers in each geographic area or each of the areas affected by the proposed tariff;

(c) Provide to the news editor of every newspaper, television station, and radio station in the geographic area within which it offers service a news release or public service announcement summarizing the published notice. The release or announcement must include a toll-free number that customers can use to obtain more information from the electric utility. The commission will maintain a list of area newspapers, television, and radio stations and will provide it on request to any utility; and

(d) Post a complete copy of the published notice on an Internet web site accessible to the public using generally available browser software.

(3) Reduced publication with shortened notice to individual customers. To comply under this method, the utility must:

(a) Mail or provide electronically the posting to each customer that would be affected by the proposed change at least fifteen days before the stated effective date of the proposed change. The utility may provide this information in an electronic format consistent with provisions in this chapter governing the use of electronic information;

(b) At the time of the utility's filing with the commission, distribute copies of the published notice in the same manner as provided in subsection (2)(a) of this section;

(c) At the time of the utility's filing with the commission, provide news media notice in the same manner as provided in subsection (2)(c) of this section; and

(d) At the time of the utility's filing with the commission, post a complete copy of the published notice in the same manner as provided in subsection (2)(d) of this section.

(4) Content of postings. The published notice required by this rule must include, when applicable:

(a) The date the notice is issued;

(b) The utility's name and address;

(c) A brief explanation of the reason(s) the utility has requested the rate change (e.g., increase in labor costs, recovery of new plant investment, and increased office expenses, such as postage and customer billing);

(d) A comparison of current and proposed rates by service;

(e) An example showing the monthly increase of the average customer's bill based on the proposed rates (e.g., "based on the proposed rates, a typical electric customer using an average of 1,500 kwhs per month would see an average monthly increase of $10.38.");

(f) When the rates will be billed (i.e., monthly or bimonthly);

(g) The requested effective date and, if different, the implementation date;

(h) A statement that the commission has the authority to set final rates that may vary from the utility's request, which may be either higher or lower depending on the results of the investigation;

(i) A description of how customers may contact the utility if they have specific questions or need additional information about the proposal; and

(j) Public involvement language. A utility may choose from:

(i) Commission-suggested language that is available from the commission's designated public affairs officer; or

(ii) Utility-developed language that must include the commission's mailing address, toll-free number, and docket number, if known, and a brief explanation of:

(A) How to participate in the commission's process by mailing or faxing a letter, or submitting an e-mail; and

(B) How to contact the commission for process questions or to be notified of the scheduled open meeting at which the proposal will be considered by the commission.

[Statutory Authority: RCW 80.01.040 and 80.04.180. 02-11-081 (Docket No. U-991301, General Order No. R-498), 480-100-194, filed 5/14/02, effective 6/17/02.]

Washington State Code Reviser's Office