Pennsylvania Domestic Violence Public Policy Action

Public Utilities

PUBLIC UTILITIES

PROBLEM

The issue of public utilities is a both an economic justice issue (in that utilities are a significant expense victims face in enduring and escaping abuse) and a privacy and hence safety concern (in that utility companies disclose home addresses, which may reveal a victim’s location and allow her abuser to track her down).

In the last days of the legislative session ending 2004, a harmful bill called the Responsible Utility Consumer Protection Act passed the legislature and became Act 201 of 2004. Instead of providing consumers with protections as the title claims, the Act eliminated winter termination protections, denied consumers access to utility services, eliminated 48-hour termination of service notices, and restricted the flexibility of payment agreements. PCADV participated with a coalition of dozens of groups that opposed the bill. At the end of the session, compromise legislation was amended into the bill, which exempts
domestic violence victims with a valid protection order from all of the provisions of the bill.

On the privacy front, utility deregulation has led to widespread marketing changes among the electricity generation and distribution industries, which results in widespread dissemination of customer addresses and other personal information, putting victims’ safety in jeopardy by allowing abusers to easily track them down.

PROGRESS

  • PCADV secured an amendment to the Responsible Utility Consumer Protection Act (Act 201 of 2004) that exempts customers with PFAs from its more rigid provisions, then developed public education materials on the domestic violence exemption, posted on the PCADV website.
  • PCADV submitted detailed comments to the proposed administrative rules to implement the Act, urging expansion of its exemptions to all victims rather than only those with PFAs.
  • PCADV has been an active opponent of expanded dissemination of utility customers’ personal information through the electricity deregulation process, both by submitting detailed comments at every stage of the administrative rule-making process and by challenging certain proposed rules in court.

2012 ACTION STEPS ON PUBLIC UTILITIES

  • PCADV will continue to advocate for greater protections for domestic violence victims in the regulations implementing Chapter 14, as well as for protections for customer privacy and confidentiality throughout the public utility system.
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