Code Section Group

Public Utilities Code - PUC

DIVISION 1. REGULATION OF PUBLIC UTILITIES [201 - 3297]

  ( Division 1 enacted by Stats. 1951, Ch. 764. )

PART 1. PUBLIC UTILITIES ACT [201 - 2120]

  ( Part 1 enacted by Stats. 1951, Ch. 764. )

CHAPTER 2.3. Electrical Restructuring [330 - 400.3]

  ( Chapter 2.3 added by Stats. 1996, Ch. 854, Sec. 10. )

ARTICLE 12. Consumer Protection [394 - 396.5]
  ( Article 12 added by Stats. 1996, Ch. 854, Sec. 10. )

394.
  

(a) As used in this section, “electric service provider” means an entity that offers electrical service to customers within the service territory of an electrical corporation, but does not include an electrical corporation, as defined in Section 218, does not include an entity that offers electrical service solely to serve customer load consistent with subdivision (b) of Section 218, and does not include a public agency that offers electrical service to residential and small commercial customers within its jurisdiction, or within the service territory of a local publicly owned electric utility. “Electric service provider” includes the unregulated affiliates and subsidiaries of an electrical corporation, as defined in Section 218.

(b) Each electric service provider shall register with the commission. As a precondition to registration, the electric service provider shall provide, under oath, declaration, or affidavit, all of the following information to the commission:

(1) Legal name and any other names under which the electric service provider is doing business in California.

(2) Current telephone number.

(3) Current address.

(4) Agent for service of process.

(5) State and date of incorporation, if any.

(6) Number for a customer contact representative, or other personnel for receiving customer inquiries.

(7) Brief description of the nature of the service being provided.

(8) Disclosure of any civil, criminal, or regulatory sanctions or penalties imposed within the 10 years immediately prior to registration, against the company or any owner, partner, officer, or director of the company pursuant to any state or federal consumer protection law or regulation, and of any felony convictions of any kind against the company or any owner, partner, officer, or director of the company. In addition, each electric service provider shall furnish the commission with fingerprints for those owners, partners, officers, and managers of the electric service provider specified by any commission decision applicable to all electric service providers. The commission shall submit completed fingerprint cards to the Department of Justice. Those fingerprints shall be available for use by the Department of Justice and the Department of Justice may transmit the fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a national criminal history record check. The commission may use information obtained from a national criminal history record check conducted pursuant to this section to determine an electric service provider’s eligibility for registration.

(9) Proof of financial viability. The commission shall develop uniform standards for determining financial viability and shall publish those standards for public comment no later than March 31, 1998. In determining the financial viability of the electric service provider, the commission shall take into account the number of customers the potential registrant expects to serve, the number of kilowatthours of electricity it expects to provide, and any other appropriate criteria to ensure that residential and small commercial customers have adequate recourse in the event of fraud or nonperformance.

(10) Proof of technical and operational ability. The commission shall develop uniform standards for determining technical and operational capacity and shall publish those standards for public comment no later than March 31, 1998.

(c) Any registration filing approved by the commission prior to the effective date of this section which does not comply in all respects with the requirements of subdivision (a) of Section 394 shall nevertheless continue in force and effect so long as within 90 days of the effective date of this section the electric service provider undertakes to supplement its registration filing to the satisfaction of the commission. Any registration that is not supplemented by the required information within the time set forth in this subdivision shall be suspended by the commission and shall not be reinstated until the commission has found the registration to be in full compliance with subdivision (a) of Section 394.

(d) Any public agency offering aggregation services as provided for in Section 366 solely to retail electric customers within its jurisdiction that has registered with the commission prior to the enactment of this section may voluntarily withdraw its registration to the extent that it is exempted from registration under this chapter.

(e) Before reentering the market, electric service providers whose registration has been revoked shall file a formal application with the commission that satisfies the requirements set forth in Section 394.1 and demonstrates the fitness and ability of the electric service provider to comply with all applicable rules of the commission.

(f) Registration with the commission is an exercise of the licensing function of the commission, and does not constitute regulation of the rates or terms and conditions of service offered by electric service providers. Nothing in this part authorizes the commission to regulate the rates or terms and conditions of service offered by electric service providers.

(Amended by Stats. 2002, Ch. 838, Sec. 6. Effective January 1, 2003.)

394.1.
  

(a) The registration shall be deemed approved and a registration number issued no later than 45 days after the required information has been submitted, unless the commission’s executive director finds, upon review of the information submitted by the electric service provider or available to the commission, that there is evidence to support a finding that the electric service provider has committed an act constituting grounds for denial of registration as specifically set forth in the operative provisions of this chapter, including, but not limited to, subdivision (c).

(b) Upon a finding by the commission’s executive director that there is evidence to support a finding that the electric service provider has committed an act constituting grounds for denial of registration as set forth in this section, the commission shall notify the electric service provider in writing, cause the documents submitted by the electric service provider to be filed as a formal application for registration, and notice an expedited hearing on the registration of the electric service provider to be held within 30 days of the notification to the electric service provider of the executive director’s finding of evidence to support denial of registration. The commission shall, within 45 days after holding the hearing, issue a decision on the registration request which shall be based on the findings of fact and conclusions of law based on the evidence presented at the hearing. The decision shall include the findings of fact and the conclusions of law relied upon.

(c) (1) The commission may deny an application for registration in accordance with subdivision (b) on the grounds that the electric service provider or any officer or director of the electric service provider has one or more of the following:

(A) Been convicted of a crime as described in paragraph (8) of subdivision (a) of Section 394.

(B) Failure to make a sufficient showing with respect to paragraphs (1) to (10), inclusive, of subdivision (a) of Section 394.

(C) Knowingly made a false statement of fact in the application for registration.

(2) The commission may deny registration pursuant to this subdivision only if the crime or act is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties required to provide retail electric service to end use customers of electricity or the false statement is material to the registration application. For purposes of this subdivision, conviction of a crime shall be established in the same manner as that set forth in paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) of Section 480 of the Business and Professions Code.

(d) The commission shall require electric service providers registered under this section to update their registration information set forth in paragraphs (1) to (10), inclusive, of subdivision (a) of Section 394 within 60 days of any material change in the information provided. Material changes to any other information required pursuant to this article shall be updated annually.

(Amended by Stats. 1999, Ch. 1005, Sec. 10.1. Effective January 1, 2000.)

394.2.
  

(a) The commission shall accept, compile, and attempt to informally resolve consumer complaints regarding electric service providers. Where the commission reasonably suspects a pattern of customer abuses, the commission may, on its own motion, initiate investigations into the activities of electric service providers offering electrical service. Consumer complaints regarding service by a public agency offering electric service within the political boundary of the public agency or service territory of a local publicly owned electric utility shall continue to be resolved by the public agency. Within the service territory of a local publicly owned utility, consumer complaints arising from the violation of direct access rules adopted by the governing body of the local publicly owned utility shall be resolved through the local publicly owned utility’s consumer complaint procedures.

(b) Notwithstanding other provisions, residential and small commercial customers shall have the option to proceed with a complaint against an electric service provider either through an action filed in the judicial court system or through a complaint filed with the commission. A customer who elects either the judicial or commission remedies may not raise the same claim in both forums. The commission shall have the authority to accept, compile, and resolve residential, and small commercial consumer complaints, including the authority to award reparations. The commission’s authority in these complaint proceedings is limited to adjudication of complaints regarding residential and small commercial electric service provided by an electric service provider and shall not be expanded to include either an award of any other damages or regulation of the rates or charges of the electric service provider. However, a person or electric service provider that takes a conflict to the commission shall not be precluded from pursuing an appeal of the decision through the courts as provided for in law.

(c) In connection with customer complaints or commission investigations into customer abuses, electric service providers shall provide the commission access to their accounts, books, papers, and documents related to California transactions as described in Sections 313 and 314, provided the information is relevant to the complaint or investigation.

(d) No electric service provider may discontinue service to a customer for a disputed amount if that customer has filed a complaint that is pending with the commission, and that customer has paid the disputed amount into an escrow account.

(Amended by Stats. 1999, Ch. 1005, Sec. 10.2. Effective January 1, 2000.)

394.25.
  

(a) The commission may enforce the provisions of Sections 2102, 2103, 2104, 2105, 2107, 2108, and 2114 against electric service providers as if those electric service providers were public utilities as defined in these code sections. Notwithstanding the above, nothing in this section grants the commission jurisdiction to regulate electric service providers other than as specifically set forth in this part. Electric service providers shall continue to be subject to the provisions of Sections 2111 and 2112. Upon a finding by the commission’s executive director that there is evidence to support a finding that the electric service provider has committed an act constituting grounds for suspension or revocation of registration as set forth in subdivision (b) of Section 394.25, the commission shall notify the electric service provider in writing and notice an expedited hearing on the suspension or revocation of the electric service provider’s registration to be held within 30 days of the notification to the electric service provider of the executive director’s finding of evidence to support suspension or revocation of registration. The commission shall, within 45 days after holding the hearing, issue a decision on the suspension or revocation of registration, which shall be based on findings of fact and conclusions of law based on the evidence presented at the hearing. The decision shall include the findings of fact and the conclusions of law relied upon.

(b) An electric service provider may have its registration suspended or revoked, immediately or prospectively, in whole or in part, for any of the following acts:

(1) Making material misrepresentations in the course of soliciting customers, entering into service agreements with those customers, or administering those service agreements.

(2) Dishonesty, fraud, or deceit with the intent to substantially benefit the electric service provider or its employees, agents, or representatives, or to disadvantage retail electricity customers.

(3) Where the commission finds that there is evidence that the electric service provider is not financially or operationally capable of providing the offered electric service.

(4) The misrepresentation of a material fact by an applicant in obtaining a registration pursuant to Section 394.

(c) Pursuant to its authority to revoke or suspend registration, the commission may suspend a registration for a specified period or revoke the registration, or in lieu of suspension or revocation, impose a moratorium on adding or soliciting additional customers. Any suspension or revocation of a registration shall require the electric service provider to cease serving customers within the boundaries of investor-owned electrical corporations, and the affected customers shall be served by the electrical corporation until the time when they may select service from another service provider. Customers shall not be liable for the payment of any early termination fees or other penalties to any electric service provider under the service agreement if the serving electric service provider’s registration is suspended or revoked.

(d) The commission shall require any electric service provider whose registration is revoked pursuant to paragraph (4) of subdivision (b) to refund all of the customer credit funds that the electric service provider received from the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 25744 of the Public Resources Code. The repayment of these funds shall be in addition to all other penalties and fines appropriately assessed the electric service provider for committing those acts under other provisions of law. All customer credit funds refunded under this subdivision shall be deposited in the Renewable Resource Trust Fund for redistribution by the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission pursuant to Chapter 8.6 (commencing with Section 25740) of Division 15 of the Public Resources Code. This subdivision may not be construed to apply retroactively.

(e) If a customer of an electric service provider or a community choice aggregator is involuntarily returned to service provided by an electrical corporation, any reentry fee imposed on that customer that the commission deems is necessary to avoid imposing costs on other customers of the electrical corporation shall be the obligation of the electric service provider or a community choice aggregator, except in the case of a customer returned due to default in payment or other contractual obligations or because the customer’s contract has expired. As a condition of its registration, an electric service provider or a community choice aggregator shall post a bond or demonstrate insurance sufficient to cover those reentry fees. In the event that an electric service provider becomes insolvent and is unable to discharge its obligation to pay reentry fees, the fees shall be allocated to the returning customers.

(Amended by Stats. 2005, Ch. 22, Sec. 169. Effective January 1, 2006.)

394.27.
  

When a customer files a claim with an electrical corporation for damages to property resulting from the curtailment of electric service due to the failure of the electrical corporation to reasonably provide service or restore service within a reasonable time after a fire, flood, earthquake, other natural disaster, or act of God, the electric corporation shall inform the customer that such claim may be pursued in small claims court or other judicial courts, depending on the amount of the claim.

(Added by Stats. 1997, Ch. 275, Sec. 17. Effective August 15, 1997.)

394.3.
  

To carry out essential elements of a sustainable and effective consumer protection program in connection with electric service providers offering electrical service to residential and small commercial customers as intended by the Legislature in this article, the following shall apply:

(a) The commission shall collect a registration fee of one hundred dollars ($100) from electric service providers required to register under this article, and deposit the fee proceeds in the Public Utilities Reimbursement Account established under Section 402.

(b) The commission shall annually determine the costs of administering the registration program and other facets of consumer protection directly related to the direct access transactions of electric service providers. The commission shall collect only those costs not already being collected elsewhere. A registrant who fails to submit to the commission a required fee or a piece of information upon which fees are calculated within 30 days of billing shall be subject to a 15-percent penalty.

(Amended by Stats. 2013, Ch. 604, Sec. 2. (SB 656) Effective January 1, 2014.)

394.4.
  

Rules that implement the following minimum standards shall be adopted by the commission for electric service providers offering electrical services to residential and small commercial customers and the governing body of a public agency offering electrical services to residential and small commercial customers within its jurisdiction:

(a) Confidentiality: Customer information shall be confidential unless the customer consents in writing. This shall encompass confidentiality of customer specific billing, credit, or usage information. This requirement shall not extend to disclosure of generic information regarding the usage, load shape, or other general characteristics of a group or rate classification, unless the release of that information would reveal customer specific information because of the size of the group, rate classification, or nature of the information.

(b) Physical disconnects and reconnects: Only an electrical corporation, or a publicly owned electric utility, that provides physical delivery service to the affected customer shall have the authority to physically disconnect or reconnect a customer from the transmission or distribution grid. Physical disconnection by electrical corporations subject to the commission’s jurisdiction shall occur only in accordance with protocols established by the commission. Physical disconnection by publicly owned electric utilities shall occur only in accordance with protocols established by the governing board of the local publicly owned electric utility.

(c) Change in providers: Upon adequate notice supplied by a electric service provider to the electric corporation or local publicly owned electric utility providing physical delivery service, customers who are eligible for direct access may change their energy supplier. Energy suppliers may charge for this change, provided that any fee or penalty charged by the supplier associated with early termination of service, shall be disclosed in that contract or applicable tariff.

(d) Written notices: Notices describing the terms and conditions of service as described in Section 394.5, service agreements, notices of late payment, notices of discontinuance of service, and disconnection notices addressed to residential and small commercial customers shall be easily understandable, and shall be provided in the language in which the electric service provider offered the services.

(e) Billing: All bills shall have a standard bill format, as determined by the commission or the governing body, and shall contain sufficient detail for the customer to recalculate the bill for accuracy. Any late fees shall be separately stated. Each electric service provider shall provide on all customer bills a phone number by which customers may contact the electric service provider to report and resolve billing inquiries and complaints. An electric service provider contacted by a customer regarding a billing dispute shall advise the customer at the time of the initial contact that the customer may file a complaint with the commission if its dispute is not satisfactorily resolved by the electric service provider.

(f) Meter integrity: An electric customer shall have a reasonable opportunity to have its meter tested to ensure the reasonable accuracy of the meter. The commission or governing body shall determine who is responsible for the cost of that testing.

(g) Customer deposits: Electric service providers may require customer deposits before commencing service, but in no event shall the deposit be more than the estimated bill for the customer for a three-month period.

(h) Additional protections: The commission or the governing body may adopt additional residential and small commercial consumer protection standards that are in the public interest.

(Amended by Stats. 1999, Ch. 1005, Sec. 10.5. Effective January 1, 2000.)

394.5.
  

(a) Except for an electrical corporation as defined in Section 218, or a local publicly owned electric utility offering electrical service to residential and small commercial customers within its service territory, each electric service provider offering electrical service to residential and small commercial customers shall, prior to the commencement of service, provide the potential customer with a written notice of the service describing the price, terms, and conditions of the service. A notice shall include all of the following:

(1) A clear description of the price, terms, and conditions of service, including:

(A) The price of electricity expressed in a format that makes it possible for residential and small commercial customers to compare and select among similar products and services on a standard basis. The commission shall adopt rules to implement this subdivision. The commission shall require disclosure of the total price of electricity on a cents-per-kilowatthour basis, including the costs of all electric services and charges regulated by the commission. The commission shall also require estimates of the total monthly bill for the electric service at varying consumption levels, including the costs of all electric services and charges regulated by the commission. In determining these rules, the commission may consider alternatives to the cents-per-kilowatthour disclosure if other information would provide the customer with sufficient information to compare among alternatives on a standard basis.

(B) Separate disclosure of all recurring and nonrecurring charges associated with the sale of electricity.

(C) If services other than electricity are offered, an itemization of the services and the charge or charges associated with each.

(2) An explanation of the applicability and amount of the competition transition charge, as determined pursuant to Sections 367 to 376, inclusive.

(3) A description of the potential customer’s right to rescind the contract without fee or penalty as described in Section 395.

(4) An explanation of the customer’s financial obligations, as well as the procedures regarding past due payments, discontinuance of service, billing disputes, and service complaints.

(5) The electric service provider’s registration number, if applicable.

(6) The right to change service providers upon written notice, including disclosure of any fees or penalties assessed by the supplier for early termination of a contract.

(7) A description of the availability of low-income assistance programs for qualified customers and how customers can apply for these programs.

(b) The commission may assist electric service providers in developing the notice. The commission may suggest inclusion of additional information it deems necessary for the consumer protection purposes of this section. On at least a semiannual basis, electric service providers shall provide the commission with a copy of the form of notice included in standard service plans made available to residential and small commercial customers.

(c) An electric service provider offering electric services who declines to provide those services to a consumer shall, upon request of the consumer, disclose to that consumer the reason for the denial in writing within 30 days. At the time service is denied, the electric service provider shall disclose to the consumer the right to make this request. A consumer shall have at least 30 days from the date service is denied to make the request.

(Amended by Stats. 2013, Ch. 604, Sec. 3. (SB 656) Effective January 1, 2014.)

394.6.
  

For purposes of this article, service territory of a local publicly owned electric utility means within the boundaries of its service territory as it existed on December 20, 1995, or within the boundaries specified in an applicable service territory boundary agreement entered into pursuant to Article 1 (commencing with Section 8101) of Division 4, or any other provision of law, between an electrical corporation and the affected local publicly owned electric utility, or within the boundaries specified in an applicable service territory boundary agreement between one local publicly owned electric utility and another local publicly owned electric utility. Furthermore, for purposes of this article, the boundaries of the Merced Irrigation District shall be as those boundaries existed on December 20, 1995, together with the territory of Castle Air Force Base, which was located outside of the district on that date.

(Added by Stats. 1997, Ch. 275, Sec. 21. Effective August 15, 1997.)

394.7.
  

(a) The commission shall maintain a list of residential and small commercial customers who do not wish to be solicited by telephone, by an electric corporation, marketer, broker, or aggregator for electric service, to subscribe to or change their electric service provider. The commission shall not assess a charge for inclusion of a customer on the list. The list shall be updated periodically, but no less than quarterly.

(b) The list shall include sufficient information for electric corporations, marketers, brokers, or aggregators of electric service to identify customers who do not wish to be solicited, including a customer’s address and telephone number. The list shall be made accessible electronically from the commission to any party regulated as an electric corporation or registered at the commission as an electric marketer, broker, or aggregator of electric service.

(c) An electric corporation, marketer, broker, or aggregator of electric service shall not solicit, by telephone, any customer on the list prepared pursuant to subdivision (a). Any electric corporation, marketer, broker, or aggregator of electric service, or the representative of an electric corporation, marketer, broker, or aggregator of electric service, who solicits any customer on the list prepared pursuant to subdivision (a) more than once shall be liable to the customer for twenty-five dollars ($25) for each contact in violation of this subdivision.

(d) This section shall not apply to the telephone verification required pursuant to Section 366.5.

(Added by Stats. 1997, Ch. 275, Sec. 22. Effective August 15, 1997.)

394.8.
  

Notwithstanding any other provision of this article, requirements placed on an electric service provider shall not apply to electrical services provided by a local publicly owned electric utility to customers within the jurisdiction or service territory of that local publicly owned electric utility.

(Amended by Stats. 1999, Ch. 1005, Sec. 10.7. Effective January 1, 2000.)

394.9.
  

Unclaimed refunds ordered by the commission, and any accrued interest, may be used by the commission to fund additional consumer protection efforts.

(Added by Stats. 1997, Ch. 275, Sec. 24. Effective August 15, 1997.)

395.
  

(a) In addition to any other right to revoke an offer, residential and small commercial customers of electrical service, as defined in subdivision (h) of Section 331, have the right to cancel a contract for electric service until midnight of the third business day after the day on which the buyer signs an agreement or offer to purchase.

(b) Cancellation occurs when the buyer gives written notice of cancellation to the seller at the address specified in the agreement or offer.

(c) Notice of cancellation, if given by mail, is effective when deposited in the mail properly addressed with postage prepaid.

(d) Notice of cancellation given by the buyer need not take the particular form as provided with the contract or offer to purchase and, however expressed, is effective if it indicates the intention of the buyer not to be bound by the contract.

(Added by Stats. 1996, Ch. 854, Sec. 10. Effective September 24, 1996.)

396.
  

(a) A consumer damaged by a violation of this article by an electric service provider is entitled to recover all of the following:

(1) Actual damages.

(2) The consumer’s reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs.

(3) Exemplary damages, in the amount the court deems proper, for intentional or willful violations.

(4) Equitable relief as the court deems proper.

(b) The rights, remedies, and penalties established by this article are in addition to the rights, remedies, or penalties established under any other law.

(c) Nothing in this article shall abrogate any authority of the Attorney General to enforce existing law.

(Amended by Stats. 2004, Ch. 183, Sec. 315. Effective January 1, 2005.)

396.5.
  

The governing body of a community choice aggregator shall adopt a policy that expressly prohibits the dissemination by the community choice aggregator of any statement relating to the community choice aggregator’s rates or terms and conditions of service that is untrue or misleading, and that is known, or that, by the exercise of reasonable care, should be known, to be untrue or misleading.

(Added by Stats. 2011, Ch. 599, Sec. 9. (SB 790) Effective January 1, 2012.)

PUCPublic Utilities Code - PUC12