Cincinnati: Duke Should Continue Providing In-Person Notice Before Disconnecting Electric
Cincinnati officials are ready to fight a Duke Energy proposal that would end sending employees to customers' homes before shutting off their electric for unpaid bills.
Duke filed a request with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) earlier this year asking for a waiver. The company proposes instead to notify customers via text message or phone call.
Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld is asking Duke to show respect and compassion.
"This power provides a lifeline, but for many people who are living paycheck to paycheck, or worse, sometimes you live in a cycle of power shut-offs," Sittenfeld said. "Having the proper notification up until that last moment via the only certain source, in person, is the only fair way, and it can be the difference between life and death in some cases."
Sittenfeld, Mayor John Cranley and at least five other council members have signed a motion opposing the Duke proposal. It also would set aside $90,000 to hire an outside attorney to present the city's intervention to the PUCO.
Duke spokeswoman Sally Thelen said the company notifies customers about disconnects in their billing statements and with a shut-off notice ten days before the action is taken.
"We're seeing a lot more success with customers taking action by using this alternate method of contact than we were seeing with our in-person visits, which we were only having interactions with customers seven percent of the time after knocking on doors," Thelen said.
Thelen said the bottom line is customers need to contact Duke if they receive disconnect notices to work out a solution.
Legal Aid Society, ProSeniors, and Communities United for Action are also opposing the Duke proposal.
Noel Morgan is an attorney with the Legal Aid Society. He said Duke asked for a similar waiver in 2010.
"The PUCO denied it and they said without personal notification or the display of notice, it's possible that customers may be unaware of the pending disconnection or may believe the lack of service is the result of an outage," Morgan said. "And we don't see where there is any difference how that's changed from 2010 to 2016."
Thelen said there have been many technology changes since 2010, and that earlier request also included natural gas service. The current waiver filing with the PUCO only includes electric service.
Thelen also said the PUCO approved a similar pilot program for American Electric Power a couple years ago; and it has shown good results.