JOPLIN, Mo. — A statewide rule designed to help with heat-related utility bills, while at the same time, protecting residents from a utility disconnection during the winter months, recently went into effect.
The Missouri Public Service Commission’s (MPSC) “Cold Weather Rule” will remain in place through March 31, 2024. It has been a part of the Commission’s rules and regulations since 1977.
The Cold Weather Rule applies to natural gas and electric utilities under MPSC jurisdiction that provide heat-related service. Municipally operated systems, cooperatives, and those that provide propane delivered by truck are not under MPSC jurisdiction.
What The Rule Does
- Prohibits the disconnection of heat-related service when the temperature is predicted to drop below 32 degrees during the following 24-hour period.
- Provides more lenient payment terms permitting reconnection of service for natural gas and/or electric customers.
- Allows customers to budget payments over 12 months.
- Requires that customers be notified by mail 10 days before the date the utility intends to shut off service; an attempt be made to contact the customer within 96 hours before the shut off; an attempt be made to contact the customer right before the shut off; and that notice is left at the home when service has been shut off.
- Requires the customer be notified of possible financial help in paying the utility bill.
- Allows for the reconnection of service for less than the full amount owed.
Who Can Register
- Those who are 65 years of age or older.
- Anyone disabled to the extent that they have filed with the utility a form submitted by a medical physician attesting that their household must have natural gas or electric utility service provided in the home to maintain life or health.
— OR —
- They have obtained a formal award letter issued from the federal government of disability benefits.
A customer who is registered with the utility company as elderly or disabled will receive additional notifications prior to a proposed discontinuance of service during the Cold Weather Rule period. They may also be eligible for additional minimum payment arrangements.
When A Heat-Related Utility Bill Can Not Be Paid
- Contact the utility company.
- State an inability to pay the bill in full.
- Provide monthly or annual income information.
- Make a minimum payment.
- Enter into a payment agreement.
For more information on the PSC’s Cold Weather Rule, please see the Commission’s website at www.psc.mo.gov, or call the Commission’s Consumer Services hotline at 1-800-392-4211. Consumers can also receive Cold Weather Rule information from their local natural gas or electric company, or the local community action agency. There may also be additional programs available to consumers seeking assistance in paying their heating bills.
When Can Utilities Be Shut Off
Before shutting off utilities during the cold weather rule period, utility providers must…
- Notify customers of possible financial help to pay delinquent bills.
- Send written notice by mail at least 10 days before the proposed shut-off.
- Attempt to contact the customer by either a second written notice by mail, a door hanger, or at least two phone calls 96 hours before shut-off.
- Attempt to contact the customer on the day of the shut-off.
- For elderly or disabled customers who have registered with the utility provider, call and send a copy of the 10-day notice to the customer’s alternate contact and make personal contact with either the elderly or disabled customer or a family member aged 15 or older on the day of the shut-off.
For more information on the Missouri Public Service Commission’s Cold Weather Rule, you can visit the MPSC website, HERE. You may also call the MPSC Consumer Services hotline at (800) 392-4211. Consumers can also receive Cold Weather Rule information from their local natural gas or electric company or the local community action agency. Fourstateshomepage.com has provided a one-page, easy reference guide available for download below.
For those seeking assistance in paying their heating bills, there may be additional programs available to consumers. One organization that may be able to help is the United Way. 1-800-427-4626 to locate agencies that may be able to assist you.