§ 34–1151. Utility payment plans.
*NOTE: This section was created by temporary legislation that will expire on February 4, 2022.*
*NOTE: This section includes amendments by emergency legislation that will expire on October 22, 2021. To view the text of the temporary legislation that created this section, click this link: Temporary Version.*
(a) During a program period, a utility provider shall offer a utility-payment-plan program ("program") for eligible customers. Under its program, a utility provider shall:
(1) Make a payment plan ("payment plan") available to an eligible customer for the payment of amounts that come due during the program period, with a minimum term length of one year, unless a shorter time period is requested by the eligible customer;
(2) Waive any fee, interest, or penalty that arises out of the eligible customer entering into a payment plan;
(3) Not report to a credit reporting agency as delinquent the amounts subject to the payment plan; and
(4) Notify all customers of the availability, terms, and application process for its program.
(b)(1) Customers entering into a payment plan shall be required to make payments in equal monthly installments for the duration of the payment plan unless a shorter payment schedule is requested by the customer.
(2) A utility provider shall permit a customer that has entered into a payment plan to pay an amount greater than the monthly amount provided for in the payment plan.
(3) A utility provider shall not require or request a customer provide a lump-sum payment under a payment plan.
(4) A utility provider shall provide confirmation in writing to the customer of the payment plan entered into, including the terms of a payment plan.
(c)(1) A utility provider shall utilize existing procedures or, if necessary, establish new procedures to provide a process by which a customer may apply for a payment plan, which may include requiring the customer to submit supporting documentation. A utility provider shall permit application for a payment plan to occur online and by telephone.
(2)(A)(i) Upon request by a customer of an electric company, gas company, incumbent local exchange carrier, or DC Water to the Office of the People's Counsel ("OPC"), OPC shall be authorized to negotiate a payment plan on behalf of a customer.
(ii) Within 48 hours of receiving a request under this subparagraph, OPC shall provide notice to the utility provider of the customer's request.
(B) A disconnection notice sent to a customer shall include notice of the right of a customer to request that OPC negotiate a payment plan on the customer's behalf, including information on how the customer may make such a request.
(C) When a company and a customer have been unable to agree on terms of a payment plan within 24 hours of the customer's request to enter into a payment plan, the company shall provide notice to the customer that the customer may contact OPC to negotiate a payment plan on the customer's behalf.
(d)(1) A utility provider shall approve each application for a payment plan submitted during the covered time period made by an eligible customer.
(2) If the customer is not eligible and the customer's application for a payment plan is denied, the utility provider shall inform the customer, in writing, of the denial and of the option to file a written complaint pursuant to subsection (g) of this section.
(e)(1) A utility provider shall not disconnect service for non-payment of a bill or fees when a customer has entered into a payment plan under this section and has made payments in accordance with the terms of the payment plan;
(2) When a customer fails to pay in full the amounts due under a payment plan and the customer and utility provider have not mutually agreed to a modification of the terms of the payment plan, nothing under this section shall prevent a utility provider from either offering the customer a new payment plan or disconnecting service.
(3) Notwithstanding any provision in this section, a utility provider is not required to offer a customer a new payment plan when a customer has defaulted on a previous payment plan offered pursuant to this section.
(f)(1) A utility provider that receives an application for a payment plan pursuant to this section shall retain the application, whether approved or denied, for at least 3 years.
(2) Upon request by the customer, a utility provider shall make an application for a payment plan available to:
(A) For utility providers regulated by the Public Service Commission and DC Water, the Office of the People's Counsel;
(B) For a cable operator, the Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment; and
(C) For all other utility providers, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and the Office of the Attorney General.
(g) A customer whose application for a payment plan is denied may file a written complaint with:
(1) For utility providers regulated by the Public Service Commission, the Public Service Commission, and the Office of the People's Counsel;
(2) For a cable operator, the Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment; and
(3) For all other utility providers, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
(h) During a period of time for which the Mayor has declared a public health emergency, a utility provider regulated by the Public Service Commission shall reconnect service to occupied residential property upon an eligible customer's request and not charge a fee for this reconnection.
(i) For the purposes of this section, the term:
(1) "Cable operator" shall have the same meaning as provided in § 34-1251.03(6).
(2) "DC Water" means the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority established pursuant to § 34-2202.02(a).
(3) "Electric company" shall have the same meaning as provided in § 34-207.
(4) "Eligible Customer" means a customer that:
(A) Has notified the utility provider of an inability to pay all or a portion of the amount due as a result, directly or indirectly, of the public health emergency; and
(B) Agrees in writing to make payments in accordance with the payment plan.
(5) "Gas company" shall have the same meaning as provided in § 34-1671.02(11).
(6) "Program period" means the period of time from March 11, 2020, until November 5, 2021 and:
(A) For a cable operator, or a telecommunications provider not regulated by the Public Service Commission, 60 days thereafter; or
(B) For any other utility provider, 6 months thereafter.
(7) "Telecommunications provider" means an entity that provides telecommunications services, whether through a telecommunications system or universal service, as those terms are defined, respectively, in § 34-2001(21) and (22), or other telecommunication service, whether such service is regulated by the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia or the Federal Communications Commission, or is currently not regulated by either local or federal law.
(8) "Utility provider" means a cable operator, DC Water, an electric company, a gas company, or a telecommunications provider.