Submitted: The Two Sides Team November 19, 2015
The PUC finds that not offering the option of paper bills adversely affects customers—especially low-income or elderly consumers.
With a 5-0 vote, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) approved a Final Rulemaking Order prohibiting public utilities from charging customers a separate fee to receive a paper utility bill.
This rule was prompted by an Order resolved in March, 2014 for a Commission to investigate the practice in the telecommunications industry of charging customers for paper invoices. The Commission concluded that “the expense of creating and providing a bill to each utility customer traditionally has been included in the operating expenses of the utility, and that imposing a separate charge to provide for the provision of monthly paper bills is not consistent with the Public Utility Code, Commission regulations, long-standing precedent and well-established practices of Pennsylvania public utilities.”
In addition, the Commission concluded that, under the Public Utility Code, failing to give customers the option of an itemized, monthly paper bill—free of charge—constitutes unreasonable and inadequate service. Finally, the Commission concluded that charging consumers for a paper bill “adversely impacted universal service and the obligation to ensure that services are provided in a nondiscriminatory fashion given the disproportionate impact to low-income and elderly consumers.”