OPC Says New DC Council Relief Measures Will Help Utility Consumers Adjust to Higher Bills after COVID-19 Emergency
The Office of the People’s Counsel welcomes DC Council passage of the Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 on May 19. The legislation that OPC helped to craft mandates payment plans to assist consumers with managing electric, gas, water, and telecommunications bills during the public health emergency and up to six months after it’s lifted. Among the bill’s provisions, utilities are required to offer payment plans extending for at least one year to eligible customers upon request; they are prohibited from reporting delinquencies to credit agencies; and cannot require a lump-sum payment under plans. *In addition, consumers may file a written complaint with OPC if they are denied a payment plan. [*An earlier alert stated that utilities must contact OPC if a consumer is denied a payment plan. However, notification is not a requirement.]
“We thank Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie for his leadership, and the entire Council, for taking these steps to assist consumers who may not be able to afford their utility bills down the line,” says People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye.
Previous Council acts mandated moratoriums on disconnections; most utilities also decided to waive late fees and restore service despite arrears. OPC believes the latest action is a key element in assisting households who, as they stay at home, are using more energy and water for their well-being but at the same time are experiencing higher bills.
During Mayor Muriel Bowser’s stay-at-home order, OPC staff is teleworking and remotely responding to consumer complaints related to their water, electric, natural gas and local phone utilities. Consumers should contact (202) 727-3071 for help with a service or billing issue, or file a complaint @ opc-dc.gov.