These procedures are established to ensure the disconnection of electric and natural gas service by the town for nonpayment is fair with regard to all utility customers and that they are uniformly applied to all customers.  These procedures are established in accordance with S.C. Code §§ 5-31-2510, 5-31-2520, 5-31-2530, 5-31-2540 and 5-31-2550.
   (A)   Collection cycle and schedule for disconnection of service for nonpayment.
      (1)   The town will observe the following collection cycle and schedule for disconnection of service for nonpayment.
         (a)   The collections cycle begins on the day the bill is printed and dated. This is day zero in the cycle.
         (b)   On day 18, the account is past due. If this or any collections event day occurs on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday, the collection event occurs on the next business day.
         (c)   On day 18, a bill is noted as delinquent and a 1.5% late fee is assessed.
         (d)   On or about day 30, a notice is printed on the next bill. This is mailed on or about day 30.
         (e)   On day 40, the service is eligible for disconnection at the property.
      (2)   If any of the above dates in the collection cycle fall on a Saturday, Sunday or official holiday of the town, the collection event occurs on the next business day. (The town hereafter in this procedure will be referred to as the utility.)
   (B)   Notification procedures and time limits. The utility is committed to providing notice to all customers of the expected disconnection date. The utility will provide either adequate notice of the disconnection date on the original bill or send a separate notice via mail that provides notice of the disconnection date. The notice shall be placed in the mail at least seven days prior to the termination date.
      (1)   The utility shall observe the following disconnection procedures.
         (a)   The utility will generate a list each day at 8:00 a.m. of the customers eligible for disconnection on that day.
         (b)   Utility staff members will review each account in the morning to see if the customer has made a payment by 5:00 p.m. on the previous business day to prevent the cut-off. Staff will also check to see if the customer is a special-needs customer and/or if the customer will require third-party notification (staff will contact these customers to arrange payment options).
         (c)   Customers eligible for disconnection are added to the cut-off list.
         (d)   Service technicians will check the weather to determine whether a disconnection is appropriate for that day.
         (e)   Service technicians will go into the field to make disconnections. The utility ensures that all disconnections are completed by 2:00 p.m. to give the customer time to come in and pay before the end of the business day at 5:00 p.m.
         (f)   If the customer comes in and makes a payment before the end of the business day, the utility will use its reasonable efforts to reconnect service as soon as possible, provided the customer pays a $20 reconnection fee. If the customer requests reconnection after 5:00 p.m. of the business day, an additional $30 reconnection fee is required.
      (2)   As a matter of normal practice, the utility will not disconnect electric or natural gas service on Fridays or on days before an official utility holiday. However, at the utility’s discretion, disconnections may occur on any day of the week, provided the utility has followed the notification and disconnection procedures for nonpayment.
   (C)   Payment plans.  The utility recognizes that at times customers will face extraordinary circumstances that lead to difficult financial situations. It is for these times the utility has established a payment plan program to assist customers in satisfying their delinquent account.
      (1)   Payment plans for delinquent accounts will be managed as follows.
         (a)   Accounts charged-off as bad debt will require that the customer pay half the bad debt balance plus the deposit to secure another account. The balance on the bad debt must be paid in 30 days.
         (b)   A payment arrangement of up to four months may be offered with the requirement that the bills on the payment plan and any current bills be paid each month.  The payment plan will be calculated to remove the arrears amount within the agreed time (maximum of four months) while keeping ongoing charge current.
         (c)   If a customer has extraordinary circumstances and is not eligible for financial assistance, the utility may offer the customer a payment arrangement. Customers with extraordinary circumstances are eligible for arrangements.  An EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCE is broadly defined as a significant event or events affecting a customer’s life and ability to pay. Utility customer service representatives will use their best judgment in applying the extraordinary circumstances determination and are expected to seek advice and confirmation from supervisory staff as needed. The representative granting approval must enter appropriate account notes.
         (d)   Suitable payment arrangements will include a minimum 33% of the delinquent amount paid at the time of payment arrangement and remaining delinquent amount paid within a maximum period of four months. A minimum of one-third of the delinquent amount, and all current amounts must be paid monthly. Payment arrangements may be made only three times in a 12-month period; otherwise payment in full is required.
      (2)   Payment arrangements may be made on closed accounts if the customer does not have active service. Payment arrangements are not made on deposits for new accounts, reconnection fees or administrative investigative fees.
   (D)   Availability of public or private assistance in paying bills. 
      (1)   Annually, the utility will include as part of the regular monthly bill or as a bill stuffer a list of social service agencies that have agreed to have their agency name and contact information sent to the customers.
      (2)   As part of the normal process of working with customers who request assistance, the utility will provide information concerning financial assistance programs in the local area. If interested, customers will need to apply to the appropriate agency. The agency receiving the application will evaluate their application and make their determination as to eligibility and if appropriate, notify the utility of the results. The utility does not make any financial assistance determinations.
   (E)   Standards for determining weather conditions.  The utility will not disconnect any electric or natural gas service on days that the forecast high temperature is 99ºF or higher during cooling months or the forecast high temperature is 35ºF or lower in heating months. These guidelines shall reflect actual temperature forecasts and not the projected heat indexes or wind chill forecasts. The forecast temperatures shall come from www.noaa.gov, www.weather.com and www.accuweather.com at 8:00 a.m. on the day of scheduled cut-off. If any of the three on-line resources shows a forecast high temperature outside the disconnect threshold (above 99ºF or below 35ºF), the utility will not disconnect service for non-payment on that day.
   (F)   Third-party notification system.
      (1)   The utility is committed to a third-party notification program for its electric and natural gas customers. As a result, at least by August 30 of each year, the utility will notify all customers that a third-party notification program is available. The customer will be asked to contact the utility and complete a form that will be kept on file by the utility. A copy of this form is attached. The form must be renewed by the customer annually to ensure service continuity.
      (2)   Disconnection procedures for customers participating in the third-party notification program are as follows:  the utility will attempt to contact the third party to notify them the cut-off is to occur one day prior to disconnection, using the phone number provided by the customer on the third-party notification form. The third party will have until the close of the business day 5:00 p.m. to pay the amount due. The services will be disconnected the following day.
   (G)   Recognition of special needs customers.  The utility is committed to meeting the requirements of our special needs customers and will keep on file a master list of special needs customers.
      (1)   To be recognized as a special needs customer, the customer and a state licensed healthcare provider are required to complete the medical certification form (see Appendix A) certifying the customer or a member of the customer’s household suffers from a health condition which would be especially dangerous to the patient’s health if the electricity or natural gas service is disconnected for non-payment. The form, documenting a qualifying condition, must be faxed or e-mailed from the office of the licensed healthcare provider. The certifying healthcare provider must be licensed in this state as a medical doctor, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner or advanced-practice registered nurse.
      (2)   The form must be resubmitted by the customer annually by October 15 to continue participation in the program.
      (3)   All special needs customers will be encouraged to participate in the third-party notification program. The third-party notification form (see Appendix A) must be completed and submitted to the utility to participate in the program and resubmitted annually by October 15 to continue participation in the program.
      (4)   A special needs customer will be given the same privilege as other customers to participate in a payment plan (detailed herein). If a special needs customer is subject to disconnection and has not taken advantage of a payment plan, the utility will observe the following schedule for disconnection of service for nonpayment.
         (a)   The utility will notify the special needs customer and an authorized third party (authorized by the special needs customer on the third-party notification form) prior to the impending service disconnection.
         (b)   In addition to the third-party notification, the utility will leave a notice at the front door of the special needs customer’s location subject to disconnection one day prior to the schedule disconnection date. In the event the stated terms are not met, the utility will disconnect service and may do so at any time specified in the notification until those terms are met.
         (c)   After disconnection, if the customer pays in full or arrangements are made to enter into a payment plan, the utility will use reasonable efforts to reconnect service as soon as possible, provided the customer pays a $20 reconnect fee during regular business hours and/or pays an additional $30 fee after normal business hours.
      (5)   Special needs customers are in no way released from their obligation to pay their monthly bill according to the terms as noted on the monthly bill.
(Ord. 11-20-06-A, passed 11-20-2006; Ord. 040511, passed 4-5-2011)
Statutory reference:
   Authorization, see S.C. Code §§ 5-31-2510, 5-31-2520, 5-31-2530, 5-31-2540 and 5-31-2550