Emergency Customer Protections During the COVID-19 Pandemic
On March 16, Governor Newsom issued an Executive Order directing the Commission to monitor consumer protections offered by electrical corporations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the Executive Order, SCE and the other investor-owned utilities submitted emergency consumer protection plans on March 19. SCE submitted their plan in the form of Advice Letter 4174-E (AL). In the AL, SCE proposes to implement various tariff changes to implement customer protection measures for customers experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Subsequent to SCE’s submission of the AL, the Commission, on April 16, issued Resolution M-4842 (Resolution). The Resolution was issued to ratify direction provided by the Commission and to provide continuity and consistency between all utility actions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The emergency customer protections as mandated by the Resolution will apply to customers for up to one year, with some protections mandated through April 16, 2021, with an option to extend. The Commission is clear that these requirements are a “floor, not a ceiling” and the utilities are encouraged to do more to help Californians during the pandemic.
The Resolution goes beyond SCE’s originally proposed protections as outlined in their AL, and states that all residential and small business customers in California are eligible for the emergency customer protection set forth in the Resolution. Specifically, the Resolution provides for the following:
- Suspend disconnection for nonpayment and associated fees, waive deposit and late fee requirements for residential customers;
- Waive deposit requirements for residential customers seeking to reestablish service for one year, and to expedite move in and move out service requests;
- Implement payment plans options for residential customers;
- Support low income residential customers by freezing state reviews for CARE program eligibility, and suspending program removals; and
- Direct meet and confer with CCAs as early as possible to discuss roles and responsibilities for each emergency customer protection.
To the extent SCE’s AL did not meet these requirements, the Resolution will supersede the AL, and SCE will be required to file another AL under expedited rules.
On April 28, CalChoice, on behalf of its members, participated in a meet and confer with SCE. CalChoice posed several questions related to payment allocation, re-entry of customers when the Resolution requirements are lifted, and communication with our CCA customers. A follow up meet and confer will be scheduled within two weeks.