WSR 11-06-032

PERMANENT RULES

UTILITIES AND TRANSPORTATION

COMMISSION

[ Docket U-100523, General Order R-563 -- Filed February 25, 2011, 12:33 p.m. ]

In the matter of amending and adopting WAC 480-90-103, 480-90-153, 480-90-178, 480-90-179, 480-90-194, 480-100-103, 480-100-153, 480-100-178, 480-100-179, and 480-100-194, relating to paperless billing for electric and gas customers.

1 STATUTORY OR OTHER AUTHORITY: The Washington utilities and transportation commission (commission) takes this action under Notice No. WSR 10-22-112, filed with the code reviser on November 3, 2010. The commission brings this proceeding pursuant to RCW 80.01.040 and 80.04.160.

2 STATEMENT OF COMPLIANCE: This proceeding complies with the Administrative Procedure Act (chapter 34.05 RCW), the State Register Act (chapter 34.08 RCW), the State Environmental Policy Act of 1971 (chapter 43.21C RCW), and the Regulatory Fairness Act (chapter 19.85 RCW).

3 DATE OF ADOPTION: The commission adopts this rule on the date this order is entered.

4 CONCISE STATEMENT OF PURPOSE AND EFFECT OF THE RULE: RCW 34.05.325(6) requires the commission to prepare and publish a concise explanatory statement about an adopted rule. The statement must identify the commission's reasons for adopting the rule, describe the differences between the version of the proposed rules published in the register and the rules adopted (other than editing changes), summarize the comments received regarding the proposed rule changes, and state the commission's responses to the comments reflecting the commission's consideration of them.

5 To avoid unnecessary duplication in the record of this docket, the commission designates the discussion in this order, including appendices, as its concise explanatory statement. Together, these documents provide a complete but concise explanation of the agency actions and its reasons for taking those actions.

6 REFERENCE TO AFFECTED RULES: This order amends and adopts the following sections of the Washington Administrative Code: Amending WAC 480-90-103 Information to consumers, 480-90-153 Disclosure of private information, 480-90-178 Billing requirements and payment date, 480-90-194 Publication of proposed tariff changes to increase charges or restrict access to services, 480-100-103 Information to consumers, 480-100-153 Disclosure of private information, 480-100-178 Billing requirements and payment date and 480-100-194 Publication of proposed tariff changes to increase charges or restrict access to services; and adopting WAC 480-90-179 Electronic information and 480-100-179 Electronic information.

7 PREPROPOSAL STATEMENT OF INQUIRY AND ACTIONS THEREUNDER: The commission filed a preproposal statement of inquiry (CR-101) on April 7, 2010, at WSR 10-08-094. The statement advised interested persons that the commission was considering entering a rule making to address the use of electronic bills, notices of tariff revisions, bill inserts, documents in adjudicative proceedings, and reports required by settlement stipulations. The commission also informed persons of this inquiry by providing notice of the subject and the CR-101 to everyone on the commission's list of persons requesting such information pursuant to RCW 34.05.320(3) and by sending notice to all regulated electric and gas utilities and the commission's list of utility attorneys. The commission posted the relevant rule-making information on its internet web site at http://www.utc.wa.gov/100523. Pursuant to the notice, the commission received written comments.

8 On June 11, 2010, the commission issued a discussion draft of electric and gas rules to all interested persons with a July 14, 2010, deadline for filing comments.

9 The commission filed an amended CR-101 on August 4, 2010, at WSR 10-16-143.1 This inquiry amends the original CR-101 filed at WSR 10-08-094 to also consider whether to modify existing rules in chapter 480-90 WAC, Gas companies and chapter 480-100 WAC, Electric companies, to allow utilities to obtain and retain a customer's authorization to share personal information electronically with the utility's affiliates, subsidiaries or any other third party for the purpose of marketing services or product offerings to a customer who does not already subscribe to that service or product.


1 As a result of the extensive comments received on July 14, 2010, staff elected to file an amended CR-101 and circulate a revised draft as part of the CR-101 process.

10 NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULE MAKING: The commission filed a notice of proposed rule making (CR-102) on November 3, 2010, at WSR 10-22-112. The commission scheduled this matter for oral comment and adoption under Notice No. WSR 10-22-112 at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, January 4, 2011, in the Commission's Hearing Room, Second Floor, Richard Hemstad Building, 1300 South Evergreen Park Drive S.W., Olympia, WA. The notice provided interested persons the opportunity to submit written comments to the commission.

11 WRITTEN COMMENTS: The commission received written comments on the notice of proposed rule making from Northwest Natural Gas (NWNG), Pacific Power & Light (PacifiCorp), Public Counsel, and Puget Sound Energy (PSE). Summaries of all written comments and commission responses are contained in Appendix A, shown below, and made part of this order.

12 RULE-MAKING HEARING: The commission considered the proposed rules for adoption at a rule-making hearing on Tuesday, January 4, 2011, before Chairman Jeffrey D. Goltz, Commissioner Patrick J. Oshie, and Commissioner Philip B. Jones. The commission heard oral comments from Mr. Roger Kouchi representing commission staff and Ms. Barb Coughlin representing PacifiCorp.

13 SUGGESTIONS FOR CHANGE THAT ARE ACCEPTED: Written and oral comments suggested changes to the proposed rules. Suggested changes and the commission's reason for accepting the suggested changes are included in the staff response column to the comment matrix included in Appendix A. The following specific changes are accepted after considering the oral presentation by PacifiCorp at the adoption hearing on January 4, 2011.

14 PacifiCorp proposed that the timeframes to respond to undelivered electronic message notifications be extended to five business days. PacifiCorp stated that requiring additional delivery attempts within one business day is administratively burdensome and technologically impossible with the current third party vendor PacifiCorp uses to send e-mail bill notifications. The commission agrees to allow the additional time provided that the utility extends the due date of the bill by the number of days the electronic notification (second attempt) was delayed beyond the requirement of one business day, not to exceed five business days.

15 SUGGESTIONS FOR CHANGES THAT ARE REJECTED: Written and oral comments suggested changes to the proposed rules. Suggested changes and the commission's reason for rejecting the suggested changes are included in the staff response column to the comment matrix included in Appendix A. The following specific changes are rejected after considering the oral presentation by PacifiCorp at the adoption hearing on January 4, 2011.

16 PacifiCorp also requested that it be allowed to keep a customer on paperless billing (i.e., bills, bill inserts, and notices of tariff revisions) despite receiving undelivered electronic message notifications. PacifiCorp did not offer a sufficient reason to support making this change.

17 COMMISSION ACTION: After considering all of the information regarding this proposal, the commission finds and concludes that it should amend and adopt the rules as proposed in the CR-102 at WSR 10-22-112 with the changes described in this order.

18 CHANGES FROM PROPOSAL: The commission addressed the written comments from NWNG, PacifiCorp, PSE, and Public Counsel earlier in this order. The suggested changes and the commission's reason for accepting or rejecting the suggested changes are discussed in paragraphs 13 through 16 of this order.

19 The utilities have ninety days from the effective date of this order to implement procedural or computer system changes required by the amendments and new rules.

20 STATEMENT OF ACTION; STATEMENT OF EFFECTIVE DATE: After reviewing the entire record, the commission determines that WAC 480-90-103, 480-90-153, 480-90-178, 480-90-194, 480-100-103, 480-100-153, 480-100-178, and 480-100-194 should be amended and WAC 480-90-179 and 480-100-179 should be adopted to read as set forth in Appendix B, as rules of the Washington utilities and transportation commission, to take effect pursuant to RCW 34.05.380(2) on the thirty-first day after filing with the code reviser.

Number of Sections Adopted in Order to Comply with Federal Statute: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0; Federal Rules or Standards: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0; or Recently Enacted State Statutes: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0.

Number of Sections Adopted at Request of a Nongovernmental Entity: New 2, Amended 8, Repealed 0.

Number of Sections Adopted on the Agency's Own Initiative: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0.

Number of Sections Adopted in Order to Clarify, Streamline, or Reform Agency Procedures: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0.

Number of Sections Adopted Using Negotiated Rule Making: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0; Pilot Rule Making: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0; or Other Alternative Rule Making: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0.

ORDER


21 THE COMMISSION ORDERS:

22 The commission amends WAC 480-90-103, 480-90-153, 480-90-178, 480-90-194, 480-100-103, 480-100-153, 480-100-178, and 480-100-194, and adopts WAC 480-90-179 and 480-100-179 to read as set forth in Appendix B, as rules of the Washington utilities and transportation commission, to take effect on the thirty-first day after the date of filing with the code reviser pursuant to RCW 34.05.380(2).

23 This order and the rule set out below, after being recorded in the register of the Washington utilities and transportation commission shall be forwarded to the code reviser for filing pursuant to chapters 80.01 and 34.05 RCW and 1-21 WAC.

DATED at Olympia, Washington, February 25, 2011.

Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission

Jeffrey D. Goltz, Chairman

Patrick J. Oshie, Commissioner

Philip B. Jones, Commissioner


Appendix A

(Comment Summary Matrix)

U-100523 Paperless Billing Rule Making

Comment Summary Matrix


Section Commenter Comments Staff Response
Disclosure of private information
1. 480-90-153(2)

480-100-153(2)

Puget Sound Energy (PSE or company) With the addition of the new subsection (3) to this rule the added sentence at the end of subsection (2) appears redundant and therefore confusing. PSE suggests deleting the last sentence: "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." Staff agrees.
480-100-153(2) Pacific Power (PacifiCorp or company) Subsection (3) and the last sentence included in subsection (2) are duplicative as they essentially contain the same requirement. Company recommends deleting the last sentence in subsection (2): "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. Staff agrees.
480-90-153(3)

480-100-153(3)

Puget Sound Energy (PSE or company) Due to the addition of "disclosure" this rule has been expanded beyond the intent in subsection (1) which limited disclosures only "for the purposes of marketing services or product offerings." By including "disclosure" in the rule, the rule could be interpreted to require consent from the consumer for every disclosure. PSE offered clarifying language. Staff agrees.
Northwest Natural Gas Company (NWNG or company) The company believes the new language could be misinterpreted. Company proposed edits that clarify that the new provisions are specific to gaining a customer's consent to "disclose or sell data regarding private consumer information to an affiliate, subsidiary or any other third party rather than a service or product.["] Staff agrees.
480-100-153(4) Pacific Power (PacifiCorp or company) The company's current policy is not to release customer information. However, should the company make a change in that policy, it has concerns with the amount of data required to be stored for each account. Company recommends the deletion of subsection (4). Staff disagrees. Staff believes that maintaining a record of the customer's consent for the disclosure of private information is appropriate and offers the necessary consumer protection. Staff would agree to eliminate the rule requirement to maintain customer consent to automatic payment and equal payment plan. The NARUC standard for recordkeeping would be sufficient consumer protection.
480-90-153(4)

480-100-153(4)

Staff Staff suggested changes to working to improve clarity (i.e., change word from ensure to retain; delete the word specific; insert the words "for each instance of"; insert the words "his or her"). The changes did not change the original meaning or intent.
480-90-153 (4)(b) Northwest Natural Gas Company (NWNG or company) Changes made to reflect earlier suggestion for WAC 480-90-153(3) above (i.e., add "date of that consent and the affiliates, subsidiaries, or third parties["]; and delete "service, product offering, or disclosure with respect"). Staff agrees. Changes to make the customer consent to share private customer data specific to a party rather than a service or product is more practical to manage.
Electronic information
2. 480-100-179 Pacific Power (PacifiCorp or company) PacifiCorp suggested adding the wording "as defined in subsection (2) of this rule." Staff agrees.
480-90-179

480-100-179

Puget Sound Energy (PSE or company)

and

Pacific Power (PacifiCorp or company)

This rule has been revised from the prior draft to include a provision limiting the transmission by electronic means to mean only "by transmission to the customer's e-mail address." Consumers should also be allowed more control over the transmission options to provide them with the ability to more effectively participate in third party on-line and mobile services designed to help manage bills, achieve greater energy efficiency and save on electricity and gas costs. In the future, consumers may want their bills sent to various electronic devices such as their iPhone or iPad or through other electronic means that are yet to be developed. The company suggested the elimination of the language "by transmission to the customer's e-mail address.["] Staff agrees in part and disagrees in part. Customers should be afforded choice in the electronic means selected. Staff believes that the customer consent would need to specify the type of electronic means the customer has agreed to receive the electronic information (i.e., e-mail; text message; etc.).
Puget Sound Energy (PSE or company) Company suggests that the rule provide either ninety day window for implementation or allow utilities to request an extension of time beyond the sixty days suggested by staff. Staff agrees to ninety day timeframe for implementation. Staff agrees to include this condition into the adoption order.
Although the rules are silent regarding the retention of existing customer consent in accordance with these rules, staff would agree that the utilities could obtain this required documentation during the annual requirement to provide information to customers (WAC 480-100-103). Staff would agree that this would be less burdensome to the company and less confusing to its customers.
Obtaining and documenting customer consent
480-90-179(2)

480-100-179(2)

Puget Sound Energy (PSE or company) The proposed section may be too broad in that it could potentially require written or electronic permission to undertake activities that do not currently require consent. For example, this section infers that in order for a customer to pay a bill electronically, the utility must first obtain the customer's consent. PSE proposed some clarifying language. Staff agrees. Replaced the words "prescribed information" with "bills, notices of tariff revisions and bill inserts."
Pacific Power (PacifiCorp or company) This section could require significant changes to PacifiCorp's system at significant costs. PacifiCorp's current practices, described above, sufficiently guard against identify [identity] theft and capture sufficient information to document a customer's consent to receiving electronic information. Staff agrees in part and disagrees in part. The rule is not intended to be burdensome. Staff envisions that the company will only need to document the consumer's consent for paperless billing, tariff revision notices and bill inserts (electronic information). It is not intended to capture the documentation for equal payment plan or automated payments. Staff does agree with some of the company's minor language changes which were intended for clarification
480-100-179 (2)(a) Pacific Power (PacifiCorp or company) Subsection (2)(a) introduces a requirement to offer customers the opportunity to separately consent to automatic payment services and equal payment plans. Payment methods are separate services and different from the provisions of bills, notices of tariff revisions and bill inserts. Addressing any aspect of payment services in a rule regarding utility provision of information to customers is out of context. Staff disagrees. The purpose and intent is to specify the information the customer must confirm/acknowledge and that the company must keep a record of this confirmation. NWNG requested the addition of the automatic payment service and equal payment plan to be included on the same screen as the consent for paperless billing. The additional language is intended to address NWNG's request.
Northwest Natural Gas Company (NWNG or company) NWNG stated that customers appreciate having the opportunity to consent to multiple services at one time rather than filing [filling] out separate forms for each offering. Company proposed language to allow the consent section to include separate and individual opportunities for customers to consent to any utility service offered under the utility's tariff. Staff disagrees. Staff has added language to allow automatic payment service and equal payment plan service on the same screen. Staff is willing to remove the web page restriction as long as the consent screen for electronic (i.e., paperless) billing; tariff revision notices; and bill inserts are prominent on the web page and clearly distinguishable from any other content on the screen or page.
480-90-179 (2)(a) PSE, PacifiCorp and NWNG PSE, PacifiCorp and NWNG suggested broadening the requirement that no information may be combined in the same document, screen or web page except utility contact information. Staff agrees. Staff agreed to change the language to: "For electronic consent, the customer consent section must be prominent on the web page and clearly distinguishable from any other content on the screen or page.["]
480-90-179 (2)(a)(i)

480-100-179 (2)(a)(i)

Puget Sound Energy (PSE or company) PSE suggested adding the words "offered by the utility" to increase clarity. Staff agrees.
480-90-179 (2)(a)(ii)

480-100-179 (2)(a)(ii)

Puget Sound Energy (PSE or company) PSE suggested adding the words "offered by the utility, including one-time payment services or other automatic payment services" to increase clarity. Staff agrees.
480-100-179 (2)(b) Pacific Power (PacifiCorp or company) Company suggested changing the retention requirement to be "in accordance with the utility's record retention policies." Staff agrees in part and disagrees in part. The consent records should be part of the customer records. It is not the intent of the rule to require permanent retention of information beyond its useful life (i.e., when the account is discontinued; when a change is made to the status; etc.). Staff agrees to eliminate the requirement in the rules regarding retention of consumer consent for on-line payment, automatic payment, and equal payment plans.
480-90-179 (2)(b) Northwest Natural Gas Company (NWNG or company NWNG suggested adding the language "to receive electronic communications" to add clarity. Staff agrees.
NWNG suggested deleting the language "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 plan.["] Staff agrees in part and disagrees in part. Staff believes that the customer's consent documentation for paperless billing is evidence and as such the language should be retained. However, staff agrees that the language regarding retention of the customer consent to automatic payment services or to the utility's equal payment plan could be eliminated. This rule addresses paperless billing.
480-90-179 (2)(d)

480-100-179 (2)(d)

Puget Sound Energy (PSE or company) The company interprets this section to detail what information that the customer must confirm/acknowledge and not what the utility must retain in its record of confirmation. Staff agrees.
480-100-179 (2)(c) Pacific Power (PacifiCorp or company) PacifiCorp suggested adding the term "customer" before the word consent for additional clarification. Staff agrees.
480-90-179 (2)(d)(ii)

480-100-179 (2)(d)(ii)

Pacific Power (PacifiCorp or company) PacifiCorp suggested changing the word "choose" to "receive" to improve wording. Staff agrees. It is the customer's opt-in decision to receive electronic information rather than choose electronic information.
480-90-179 (2)(d)(iii)

480-100-179 (2)(d)(iii)

Puget Sound Energy (PSE or company) Subsection (5) allows a utility to refuse to provide both electronic and paper documents on a continuous basis. PSE suggests adding the phrase "but subject to the limitations provided in this rule." Staff agrees.
480-90-179 (2)(d)(v)

480-100-179 (2)(d)(v)

Pacific Power (PacifiCorp or company) PacifiCorp suggested changing the words "will not" to "may" to allow utilities increased flexibility. Staff agrees. In addition to the paperless bills, customers "may" receive all notices regarding service, including notices of the utility's request to increase rates and changes in service, in electronic form.
480-90-179 (2)(d)(vi)

480-100-179 (2)(d)(vi)

Puget Sound Energy (PSE or company) PSE suggested adding the following language to a new subsection: "Acknowledgement that the customer understands that utility may discontinue providing documents electronically at any time and to any customer.["] Staff disagrees with the new suggested language. The proposed rule (see WAC 480-90/100-179(5); limit on changes to information format) already allows the utility to discontinue electronic information. Staff believes the provisions in subsection (5) of this rule spells out sufficient criteria to allow the utility to discontinue or refuse to provide electronic information.
Undeliverable electronic information
480-90-179(7)

480-100-179(7)

Commission staff Staff changed a word in the title from "documents" to "information." This matches the wording in subsection (7) of the new rule.
480-90-179 (7)(a)

480-100-179 (7)(a)

PSE, PacifiCorp, and staff Suggested language changes to increase clarity, allow contact by telephone, change the wording from "fails" to "succeeds" for more positive approach, and refers readers to subsection (d) to address timeframes. Staff agrees.
480-90-179 (7)(a) and (b)

480-100-179 (7)(a) and (b)

Puget Sound Energy (PSE or company) This rule contains a reference only to

e-mail. PSE proposes that the phrase "or other electronic address" be added as has been done in other sections.

Staff agrees.
PSE proposed returning the customer to mail notification starting with the next following billing or other notification unless the customer requests otherwise. Staff agrees. However, staff disagrees that the language needs further clarification. It already allows for this option. Staff believes that the language should be kept broad to allow for greater flexibility (i.e., mail out the electronic information immediately and without waiting for the next billing cycle).
PSE proposed lengthening the timeline for subsections (a) and (b) to two business days. Staff disagrees. Staff has already included a mechanism to go to a maximum of five business days as an exception or a separate option.
Northwest Natural Gas Company (NWNG or company) NWNG proposed a change so that it is specific to electronically delivered bills. Subsection (7)(a) is also revised to allow a utility to either call or e-mail a customer after an e-mail bill bounces. NWNG also proposed some edits for greater clarity and readability. Staff agrees in part and disagrees in part. Staff agrees that a utility should be allowed to either call or e-mail a customer after a failed e-mail.
Staff also agrees with some of the company's clarification language.
Staff disagrees that subsection (7) be limited to electronic bills only. For example, notices for a rate increase are also important and the utility should take immediate action to get the information to its customer.
Pacific Power (PacifiCorp or company) PacifiCorp proposed the timeframes be extended to five business days (change from the next business day) for additional delivery attempts. PacifiCorp stated that requiring additional delivery attempts within one business day is administratively burdensome and technologically impossible with the current third party vendor PacifiCorp uses to send e-mail bill notifications. Company does not impose a late payment charge on customers if they do not pay by the due date on the bill. The late payment charge is imposed if the payment is not received by the time the next statement is invoiced. Staff agrees. Additional language was added to require the extension of the due date of the bill to address consumer protection concerns. Staff believes that this change allows the additional time requested by the utility while adequately protecting consumers from late payment fees, disconnects, and deposit requests which could result if the due date was not extended.
PacifiCorp requested that it be allowed to keep a customer on paperless billing (i.e., bills, bill inserts, and notices of tariff revisions) despite receiving undelivered electronic message notification. The option of either mailing customers the returned information or providing them with instructions on how to access the information electronically. The company suggests providing the utilities the option of removing customers from the paperless billing if the second delivery attempt is returned undeliverable. Staff disagrees. The company did not offer a satisfactory reason to support making this change. Staff would need to see data to show why this change is necessary. PacifiCorp's reason that disallowing this change would cause its customers to be dissatisfied is insufficient.
480-90-179 (7)(b)

480-100-179 (7)(b)

Commission staff Remove the language "A second verification is not required." The deleted language did not add anything to the meaning.
480-90-179 (7)(c)

480-100-179 (7)(c)

Commission staff In order to address PacifiCorp's concern about the response times for undeliverable electronic messages, staff proposed a new subsection (c) to address timing of the utilities response to undeliverable electronic messages. It provided for two options: (1) The business day following receipt of the undeliverable message; and (2) a maximum of five business days. Staff also added additional consumer protection language to require utilities to extend the due date by the number of days the electronic notification was delayed not to exceed five business days. In staff's opinion, the extension of the due date will offer adequate consumer protection to preclude issues in the areas of late payment fees, disconnection of service, and deposit requests.
Puget Sound Energy (PSE or company) PSE suggested lengthening the time line for subsections (a) and (b) to two business days because of occasional failures of electronic delivery mechanisms. Staff agrees in part and disagrees in part. Staff agrees that there should be a mechanism in the rule to address the lengthening of the time line because of occasional failures of electronic delivery mechanisms. Staff added the option of increasing the time line to a maximum of five business days (see discussion under PacifiCorp above).
480-100-179 (7)(d) Pacific Power (PacifiCorp or company) PacifiCorp requested that it be allowed to keep a customer on paperless billing (i.e., bills, bill inserts, and notices of tariff revisions) despite receiving undelivered electronic message notifications. Staff agrees.
480-90-179 (7)(d)(i)

480-100-179 (7)(d)(i)

480-90-179 (7)(d)(ii)

480-100-179 (7)(d)(ii)

Commission staff Staff added two conditions if the utility keeps a customer on paperless billing despite receiving undelivered electronic message notifications. The conditions include: (1) The utility must exhaust all reasonable attempts to correct the malfunctioning electronic address; and (2) the utility must obtain the customer's written or electronic consent to continue paperless billing even though the customer's electronic notification is returned to the utility as undeliverable. This is intended to provide adequate consumer protection when the utility keeps a customer on paperless billing even though the utility is receiving undelivered electronic message notifications.

OTS-3750.2


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.

(3) The utility must obtain a customer's prior permission for each instance of disclosure or sale of his or her private customer information to an affiliate, subsidiary or other third party for purposes of marketing services or products that the customer does not already subscribe to and maintain a record of each instance of permission for disclosing his or her private customer information.

(4) The utility will retain the following information for each instance of a customer consent for disclosure of his or her private customer information if provided electronically:

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

(b) A list of the date of the consent and the affiliates, subsidiaries, or third parties 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 (as defined in subsection (2) of this section) of the customer or applicant, a utility may provide the following by electronic means, 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 as agreed to by the customer. The electronic form must provide a link to the electronic information, or otherwise advise 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 bills, notices of tariff revisions and bill inserts 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 offered by the utility.

(ii) Automatic payment services offered by the utility, including one-time payment services or other automatic payment services.

(iii) Equal payment plan.

For electronic consent, the customer consent section must be prominent on the web page and clearly distinguishable from any other consent on the screen or page. No information other than as provided in this section, may be combined in the same customer consent section except utility contact information. The consent section must not have consent boxes or spaces already filled in. 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.

(b) The utility must retain a record of the customer's consent to receive electronic communications 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 service.

(c) Documentation of the customer 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 receive electronic information;

(iii) Confirmation that the customer understands the utility will provide, upon request but subject to the limitations in this section, 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 may 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 information.

(a) 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 ascertain and correct the problem causing the return of the information as undeliverable. It must, within the time specified in (c) of this subsection, either resend the electronic information to the customer-provided electronic address or contact the customer by telephone.

(b) If the utility fails to correct the problem within the required time, it must send the customer the information by mail and return the customer to mail notification. It also must include in the mailed information an explanation that the e-mail address or other electronic address is not functioning and indicate that future information will be sent via mail until the customer provides to the utility a functioning e-mail or other functioning electronic address.

(c) The utility must take the steps required in (a) and (b) of this subsection by either:

(i) The business day following receipt of the undeliverable message; or

(ii) If the utility extends the bill due date by five business days, within five business days.

[]


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-3751.2


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.

(3) The utility must obtain a customer's prior permission for each instance of disclosure or sale of his or her private customer information to an affiliate, subsidiary or other third party for purposes of marketing services or products that the customer does not already subscribe to and maintain a record of each instance of permission for disclosing his or her private customer information.

(4) The utility will retain the following information for each instance of a customer consent for disclosure of his or her private customer information if provided electronically:

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

(b) A list of the date of the consent and the affiliates, subsidiaries, or third parties 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 (as defined in subsection (2) of this section) of the customer or applicant, a utility may provide the following by electronic means, 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 as agreed to by the customer. The electronic form must provide a link to the electronic information, or otherwise advise 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 bills, notices of tariff revisions and bill inserts 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 offered by the utility.

(ii) Automatic payment services offered by the utility, including one-time payment services or other automatic payment services.

(iii) Equal payment plan.

For electronic consent, the customer consent section must be prominent on the web page and clearly distinguishable from any other content on the screen or page. No information other than as provided in this section, may be combined in the same customer consent section except utility contact information. The consent section must not have consent boxes or spaces already filled in. 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.

(b) The utility must retain a record of the customer's consent to receive electronic communications 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 service.

(c) Documentation of the customer 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 receive electronic information;

(iii) Confirmation that the customer understands the utility will provide, upon request but subject to the limitations in this section, 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 may 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 information.

(a) 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 ascertain and correct the problem causing the return of the information as undeliverable. It must, within the time specified in (c) of this subsection, either resend the electronic information to the customer-provided electronic address or contact the customer by telephone.

(b) If the utility fails to correct the problem within the required time, it must send the customer the information by mail and return the customer to mail notification. It also must include in the mailed information an explanation that the e-mail address or other electronic address is not functioning and indicate that future information will be sent via mail until the customer provides to the utility a functioning e-mail or other functioning electronic address.

(c) The utility must take steps required in (a) and (b) of this subsection by either:

(i) The business day following the receipt of the undeliverable message; or

(ii) If the utility extends the bill due date by five business days, within five business days.

[]


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