WI public utilities barred from disconnecting services, charging late fees during emergency

A finger is turning on a light switch.
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- As the coronavirus pandemic grips Wisconsin, the state’s residents will soon not have to worry about having their utilities disconnected if they miss a payment or paying a late fee if they miss a due date.

These temporary consumer protections along with several others are being rolled out by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to give people more flexibility as battle against the coronavirus is placing enormous strains on the economy.

“It is critically important to give people flexibility during this emergency, when paychecks might be disrupted, to keep the lights and heat on and water flowing,” said Gov. Evers. “We’re making sure that folks don’t have to make the critical choice between keeping their utilities on and paying for other essentials.”

Evers signed an order Sunday that suspended administrative rules for the utility sector and cleared the way for PSC to act.

“This is a difficult time for many. We’re asking that those who are able to pay their utility bills, please continue to do so. For those who can’t, today’s order allows them to remain connected,” PSC Chairperson Rebecca Cameron Valcq said.

According to the Governor’s Office, Valcq has ordered publicly-regulated utilities to:

  1. Stop utility disconnection for nonpayment for all customers, including commercial, industrial, and farm accounts. Previously this applied to residential accounts only;
  2. Cease assessing late fees to customer accounts;
  3. Halt the practice of requiring deposits from customers for reconnection of service;
  4. Allow deferred payment agreements for all customers who request them;
  5. Remove any administrative barriers for customers establishing or reestablishing utility service; and
  6. Authorize water utilities to provide budget billing arrangements to customers. Electric and natural gas utilities are allowed to do this under current rules.

The regulations will remain in effect for the duration of the emergency, the Governor’s Office said.