Senate approves Richardville legislation to protect residents from utility shut-offs
LANSING - The Senate today approved legislation that will help protect Michigan residents from utility shut-offs, said Sen. Randy Richardville, sponsor of the measure.
Senate Bill 555 is part of a bipartisan Senate and House legislative package that establishes procedures for utility shut-offs, especially during cold weather and for the elderly and disabled.
“Recent tragedies have increased the need to adopt uniform procedures,” said Richardville, R-Monroe. “The legislation makes consumer protection a priority by developing standardized rules for service providers and increasing consumer notification requirements.”
The death of a Bay City man in January 2009 raised concerns about the discrepancies between rules governing regulated utilities and self-governing municipal providers. A city-owned electric company installed a service limiter on the home’s electric meter without contacting the man face-to-face before shutting off the power. Although the individual had enough money, the bill had not been paid for four months.
“Utility companies must take appropriate steps to inform their customers of an impending shut-off,” Richardville said. “It is also important, however, for consumers to pay their bills or work with their utility company to make necessary arrangements if they are struggling to make the payments.”
SB 555 establishes a process to send certain energy assistance payments directly to the utility service providers.
“Under the current system, some utility assistance money is sent to eligible customers to help them pay their utility bills,” Richardville said. “Unfortunately, the money is not always used for its intended purpose. Changing this procedure will help ensure the utilities receive their money and keep the consumers’ power on.”
The measure will now advance to the state House for consideration.
Posted: Wednesday, October 07, 2009
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