§ 56.12. Meter reading; estimated billing; customer readings.

 Except as provided in this section, a public utility shall render bills based on actual meter readings by public utility company personnel.

   (1)  Inapplicability to seasonally billed customers. This section does not apply to customers billed on a seasonal basis under terms included in the tariff of the public utility.

   (2)  Estimates for bills rendered on a monthly basis. If a public utility bills on a monthly basis, it may estimate usage of service every other billing month, so long as the public utility provides a customer with the opportunity to read the meter and report the quantity of usage in lieu of the estimated bill. The resulting bills must be based on the information provided, except for an account when it is apparent that the information is erroneous.

     (i)   Upon the request of the customer, the public utility shall, at least annually, provide preaddressed postcards on which the customer may report the reading. The public utility shall provide additional preaddressed postcards on request. The public utility may choose to make available electronic and telephonic methods for customers to report meter reading information.

     (ii)   The public utility may establish due dates by which the customer supplied reading shall be received for a bill to be based upon the meter reading of the customer or occupant. If the reading of a customer or occupant is not received by that due date, the public utility may estimate the quantity of usage. The public utility may establish due dates for submitting a meter reading when the customer or occupant utilizes an electronic method for reporting meter readings.

   (3)  Estimates permitted under exigent circumstances. A public utility may estimate the bill of a customer if extreme weather conditions, emergencies, equipment failure, work stoppages or other circumstances prevent actual meter reading.

   (4)  Estimates when public utility personnel are unable to gain access. A public utility may estimate the bill of a customer if public utility personnel are unable to gain access to obtain an actual meter reading, as long as the following apply:

     (i)   The public utility has undertaken reasonable alternative measures to obtain a meter reading, including, but not limited to, the provision of preaddressed postcards upon which the customer may report the reading or the telephone reporting of the reading.

     (ii)   The public utility, at least every 6 months, or every four billing periods for public utilities permitted to bill for periods in excess of 1 month, obtains an actual meter reading or customer supplied reading to verify the accuracy of the estimated readings.

     (iii)   The public utility, at least once every 12 months, obtains an actual meter reading to verify the accuracy of the readings, either estimated or customer read.

   (5)  Remote reading devices for water, gas and electric public utilities. A public utility may render a bill on the basis of readings from a remote reading device under the following conditions:

     (i)   When a gas, electric or water public utility uses readings from a remote reading device to render bills, the public utility shall obtain an actual meter reading at least once every 5 years to verify the accuracy of the remote reading device. If the customer of record at the dwelling changes during the 5-year period between actual meter readings, the public utility shall make a bona fide attempt to schedule an appointment with the departing customer and, if necessary, the new occupant, to secure an actual meter reading.

     (ii)   When the actual meter reading establishes that the customer was underbilled due to an error in the registration of the remote reading device, the public utility may render a bill for the uncollected amount. If the rebilling exceeds the otherwise normal estimated bill for the billing period during which the bill is issued by at least 50% or at least $50, the public utility shall comply with §  56.14 (relating to previously unbilled public utility service).

     (iii)   When the actual meter reading establishes that the customer was overbilled due to an error in the readings of the remote reading device, the public utility shall credit or refund to the customer the amount overbilled plus interest calculated under §  56.181(3) (relating to duties of parties; disputing party’s duty to pay undisputed portion of bills; public utility’s duty to pay interest whenever overpayment found).

     (iv)   Nothing in this section may be construed to limit the authority of electric, gas or water utilities to gain access to a residence for the purpose of checking or reading a meter.

   (6)  Limitation of liability. If a water public utility has estimated bills and if the customer or occupant during that period has consumed an amount of water in excess of normal seasonal usage because of a verified leak that could not reasonably have been detected or other unknown loss of water, the customer is not liable for more than 150% of the average amount of water consumed for the corresponding period during the previous year. This section does not apply when the water public utility was unable to gain access and has complied with paragraph (4).

   (7)  Budget billing. A gas, electric and steam heating public utility shall provide its residential customers, on a year-round rolling enrollment basis, with an optional billing procedure which averages estimated public utility service costs over a 10-month, 11-month or 12-month period to eliminate, to the extent possible, seasonal fluctuations in utility bills. The public utility shall review accounts at least three times during the optional billing period. At the conclusion of the budget billing year, a resulting reconciliation amount exceeding $100 but less than $300 shall be, at the request of the customer, amortized over a 6-month period. Reconciliation amounts exceeding $300 shall be amortized over at least a 12-month period at the request of the customer. Shorter amortization periods are permissible at the request of the customer.

   (8)  Notice. The public utility shall inform existing customers of their rights under this section and 66 Pa.C.S. §  1509 (relating to billing procedures).

Authority

   The provisions of this §  56.12 amended under the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa.C.S. § §  501, 504—506, 1301, Chapter 14 and 1501.

Source

   The provisions of this §  56.12 adopted June 16, 1978, effective June 17, 1978, 8 Pa.B. 1655; amended April 8, 1983, effective April 9, 1983, 13 Pa.B. 1250; amended February 28, 1986, effective March 1, 1986, 16 Pa.B. 597; amended July 17, 1998, effective August 17, 1998, 28 Pa.B. 3379; amended October 7, 2011, effective October 8, 2011, 41 Pa.B. 5473. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (337340), (246315) to (246316) and (271615).

Notes of Decisions

   Service

   Failure by a condominium to pay sales taxes for electricity and steam is not one of the enumerated reasons to permit a utility company to terminate service. Philadelphia Electric Company v. Department of Revenue, 538 A.2d 607 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1988).

   Sales Tax

   By requiring public utilities to prepay sales taxes for its nonresidential customers and then write off as a bad debt any such taxes it cannot collect from the customer, the Legislature did not violate equal protection. Philadelphia Electric Company v. Department of Revenue, 538 A.2d 607 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1988).

Cross References

   This section cited in 52 Pa. Code §  54.153 (relating to reporting requirements); 52 Pa. Code §  56.97 (relating to procedures upon customer or occupant contact prior to termination); 52 Pa. Code §  56.116 (relating to duty of customer to pay bills); 52 Pa. Code §  56.191 (relating to payment and timing); and 52 Pa. Code §  62.33 (relating to reporting requirements).



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