Monday, October 29, 2001

Utilities can take longer to restore service

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — State regulators have approved a rule that could make disconnected utility customers wait longer to have service restored once their bills are paid.

        The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio approved the new reconnection rule, which gives utilities as long as three days to restore service without being penalized.

        Under the old rule, utilities were required to reconnect customers the same day if they paid their bill by noon, or the next day if they paid after noon.

        The new rule was adopted Oct. 16 and is in effect through Dec. 16.

        Columbia Gas of Ohio said the rule could affect tens of thousands of customers, many of whom had gas service shut off at the end of last winter when they were unable to pay heating bills.

        Last year, Gov. Bob Taft ordered a moratorium on utility disconnection during the winter after heating bills soared to record levels. A moratorium has not been enacted this year.

        Ohio Consumers' Counsel Robert Tongren was unhappy with the new rule.

        “Hopefully, we can get the commission to change its mind,” he said. His agency, the state watchdog for residential utility customers, has asked the PUCO to take another look at the issue.

        PUCO spokeswoman Shana Gerber said the commission acted because utilities, especially natural gas companies, said they would have a hard time catching up with all the people who want their service restored.


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- Utilities can take longer to restore service