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Keep the Heat On: An AARP Member Survey of Utility Rights

AARP Member Opinion Research

In 2004, Pennsylvania's legislature amended the state's utility law and changed the process that utility companies must follow to disconnect services to customers who have not paid their bills. Utility companies are no longer required to personally visit the home of customers who are about to be shut-off due to unpaid bills. Nor are they now required to obtain the permission of the Public Utility Commission (PUC) before discontinuing services, including heat and water, from December through March to customers below a certain income level.

This survey explores AARP Pennsylvania members' views and concerns about these and other utility issues. Of the 801 AARP members surveyed by telephone from October 28 through November 2, 2005, a large majority...

  • say their heating bills have increased in the past three years
  • support protections for utility customers who have not paid their bills
  • agree that winter shut-offs to low-income customers should not be allowed without the approval of the PUC
  • think that utility companies should be required to provide customers with an in-person notice prior to cutting off service
  • support creating a hardship fund
  • feel that the 2004 changes to the utility law should be reversed

Further information may be obtained by contacting the authors, Katherine Bridges at 202-434-6329 or Erica Dinger at 202-434-6176. (16 pages)