Missouri 'cold weather' rule takes effect

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Designed to help customers through the winter, the Missouri Public Service Commission's Cold Weather Rule takes effect Nov. 1 and runs through March 31, 2018. 

The rule has been a part of the commission's rules and regulations since 1977. It applies to natural gas and electric utilities under PSC jurisdiction that provide heat-related services.

The rule prohibits the disconnection of heat-related service when the temperature is predicted to drop below freezing during the following 24 hours. It also allows for more lenient payment options when reconnecting heat services. 

Elderly and disabled customers who meet certain income guidelines cannot be disconnected when they make a minimum payment. 

Customers can also budget payments over a 12 month stretch and it may also customers to extend payment of pre-existing debts beyond 12 months. 

Customers must be notified by mail at least 10 days before the day the utility intends to be shut off. The company must also attempt to make contact with the contact at least 96 hours before shut off and right before shut off and a notice is required to be left at the house when service has been disconnected. 

The rule requires customers to be notified of possible financial help in paying the utility bill and allows for the service to be reconnected for less than the full amount owed.

Eligible customers include those 65 years or older, disabled customers who have provided a doctor's note and/or have been given a letter from the federal government for their disability benefits. 

Customers must register with their company to receive some of the benefits of the cold weather rule. 

If a customer is faced with a heat-related utility bill that they cannot pay in full, it is important that the customer contacts the utility company and tells the representative they are not able to pay. The company will help to make a payment agreement for the customer.

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