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“WINTER DISCONNECT” PERIOD ENDS APRIL 15

Beginning with disconnection notices issued on April 1, electric and gas utilities will not be required to perform the more extensive attempts to contact customers required during the winter disconnection period.  This reduced contact effort can result in disconnection of your electric or gas service for nonpayment or for a broken payment arrangement after April 15 with nothing more than a disconnection notice and a knock at your door at the time the utility comes to disconnect your service.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.  If you owed an overdue amount from your bills issued November 1 through March 31, the utility must be able to show that a good faith effort was made to make personal contact with you and establish a payment arrangement.  If the utility cannot make such a showing, the utility must attempt to contact you and establish a Special Payment Arrangement regardless of your eligibility.  If you refuse to enter into a Special Payment Arrangement, the utility may disconnect your service after providing a 14-day disconnection notice.

The second phase of a Special Payment Arrangement begins with the payment due in April.  From April through October, equal monthly installments calculated to pay your overdue amount and bring your account current by November 1 are due.  You were likely informed of the installment amount at the time of your March billing.  If you haven't received the revised installment amount from your utility, you should call and ask about it.  Failure to pay the new figure may result in a disconnection notice due to a broken payment arrangement.  A broken payment arrangement notice is mailed by the utility 3 business days before the disconnection date stated on the notice.  That doesn't allow much time to come up with any catch-up amount necessary.

When a customer is disconnected after April 15 for failure to comply with the terms of an original or renegotiated payment arrangement and is then reconnected, the payment arrangement established upon reconnection must specify that the outstanding arrearages be paid by November 1 unless a material deterioration in financial condition is demonstrated by the customer.  In other words, if the customer provides information that shows a deterioration in financial condition occurred (layoff or anything that shows a reduction in income or an unexpected expense), the payment arrangement established to reconnect after disconnection for a broken Special Payment Arrangement will be extended beyond November 1.

Whenever you bring your account current (no overdue balance), any payment arrangement that existed on your account is considered paid in full and removed.  If your balance becomes overdue again, you are entitled to a new payment arrangement.  A payment arrangement negotiated for non-winter account balances is called a regular payment arrangement.  It often requires the customer to make a down payment followed by monthly installments that include a portion of the overdue amount and each future bill as it becomes due.  Regular payment arrangements are negotiated between the customer and the utility and should be structured to prevent disconnection and reduce the amount overdue to a zero balance over a reasonable period of time.  The requirement to bring the account balance current by November 1 does not apply to regular payment arrangements.

If you are unable to negotiate reasonable terms to avoid disconnection of your electric or natural gas service, or if you have any questions regarding your electric or natural gas service, please call the Maine Public Utilities Commission's Consumer Assistance Hotline at (800) 452-4699 or (207) 287‑1597.  You can also reach the Maine PUC at (800) 437-1220 (TTY Relay), (207) 287-1039 (fax), or by e-mail at maine.puc@maine.gov.