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Subject 515-3-3 RESIDENTIAL GAS UTILITY SERVICE DISCONNECTIONS

Rule 515-3-3-.01 Reasons for Disconnection

No residential gas utility service may be disconnected except for the following reasons:

(a) Upon consumer request;
(b) When service to the consumer constitutes an immediate hazard to persons or property;
(c) By order of the Georgia Public Service Commission, any Court, or any other authorized public agency;
(d) A bill for past service is not paid within at least forty-five (45) days after the date of the bill, provided that said bill is rendered to the consumer in compliance with O.C.G.A. §§§ 46-4-158.1, 46-4-158.2, and 46-4-160 and Commission Rule 515-7-6, and provided the bill is not:
(i) for service to a previous occupant of the premises served,
(ii) for the purchase of merchandise, appliances, or a non-gas utility
(iii) for service rendered at a different metering point, unless said bill is a final bill from the current marketer and has remained unpaid for at least 45 days from the date of the bill.

Rule 515-3-3-.02(A) Limitations on Disconnections by a Local Distribution Company (LDC)

In the case of proposed disconnection for residential gas service, service may not be disconnected unless:

(a) The LDC has delivered, or caused to be delivered, to the service address, or to the address of any party who to the knowledge of the LDC has undertaken the responsibility to pay the bill, written notice of the proposed disconnection at least five (5) days prior to the date of disconnection. Such notice shall include:
1. The earliest date for the proposed disconnection;
2. The amount due and the reason for the proposed disconnection;
3. A telephone number that the affected consumer may call for information about the proposed disconnection;
4. The procedure for preventing disconnection of service, including one wherein there may exist a medical emergency as herein described; and
5. Information concerning any programs known to the LDC that might assist the consumer in paying the past-due bill.

Rule 515-3-3-.02(B) Limitations on Disconnections by a Marketer or an Electing Distribution Company (EDC)

In the case of proposed disconnection for residential gas service, service may be disconnected provided that:

a. The EDC, or marketer, whichever has billing responsibility, has delivered, or-caused to be delivered to the customer by the consumer preferred method of communication, or to the service address, or to the address of any party who to the knowledge of the EDC or marketer has undertaken the responsibility to pay the bill, written notice of the proposed disconnection at least fifteen (15) days prior to the date of disconnection. The consumer shall have at least 15 days after a notice that service will be disconnected to pay the portion of the balance necessary to avoid disconnection. Such notice shall be clear and conspicuous, shall be distinguishable from the bill for past service, and shall include the following:
1. The earliest date for the proposed disconnection;
2. The amount due and the reason for the proposed disconnection;
3. A local or toll-free telephone number that the affected consumer may call for information about the proposed disconnection;
4. A list of authorized pay stations in the state, or in the alternative a local or toll-free telephone number that the customer can call to obtain information about pay stations in the state, as provided for in O.C.G.A. § 46-4-160, where a cash payment can be processed for posting to the consumer's account within one business day;
5. The procedure for preventing disconnection of service, including one wherein there may exist a medical emergency, and notification of the availability of a payment arrangement under the seasonal restrictions as herein described;
6. Information concerning any programs known to the EDC or marketer that might assist the consumer in paying the past-due bill, including the division name and telephone number for information regarding heating assistance administered by the Department of Human Resources;
7. A statement that the consumer is entitled to at least one reasonable payment arrangement in writing prior to each disconnection, unless such consumer failed to honor a previous payment arrangement. Such statement shall also state that the consumer must contact the marketer in order to receive such payment arrangement. The marketer must provide the customer a local or toll-free number for the purpose of establishing payment arrangements.
8. A statement that qualified low-income residential consumers may transfer to the Regulated Provider without termination of service.
b. Within 7 days of a consumer entering into a payment arrangement with a marketer, said marketer shall send such consumer separate written confirmation using the consumer preferred method of communication detailing the mutually agreed upon payment arrangement terms. A marketer may elect to record, in accordance with 515-3-3-.07(g), such payment arrangements with a consumer in lieu of sending written confirmation.
c. The EDC or marketer, whichever has billing responsibility, makes a good-faith effort to make personal contact by the use of a telephone, certified mail, certification of mailing, hand delivery or the consumer preferred method of communication to reasonably notify the affected consumer at least two (2) days prior to the proposed disconnection date if personal contact has not been made previously;
d. The date of the proposed disconnection is a business day, when a representative of the EDC or marketer is available to receive payment from the consumer;
e. The overdue bill is not for consumption for no more than two months as the result of previously estimated bills, unless the consumer has been given an amount of time to pay the bill equal to the amount of time in which the bill was estimated;
f. The overdue bill does not include any charges different than that stated in the written notice pursuant to subsection (a)(2);
g. The overdue bill is not in dispute pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 46-4-160; and
h. The overdue bill is not solely comprised of an unpaid deposit, unless it is for a deposit that was assessed either at the commencement of service with the marketer or within sixty (60) days from the commencement date of service.

Rule 515-3-3-.03 Disconnection During Illness

Service shall not be discontinued for nonpayment of a bill to a residential consumer who has a serious illness which would be aggravated by said discontinuance, provided that the consumer notifies either the marketer or the utility providing retail distribution service of this condition in writing, or orally with written notice using the consumer preferred method of communication within ten (10) days thereafter, and within ten (10) days of giving such initial notice furnishes to either the marketer or the utility providing retail distribution service a written statement from a physician, county board of health, hospital, or clinic identifying the illness, its expected duration, and certifying that the illness would be aggravated by such discontinuance. In such event, the proposed disconnection shall be held in abeyance for the shorter of either the length of the illness or one month from the date of such initial notice, and the consumer may renew the postponement period one additional time by repeating the aforementioned procedure. If there is a dispute regarding the existence of a serious illness, the case may be referred to the Commission for a final determination.

Rule 515-3-3-.04 Seasonal Restrictions

Other rules notwithstanding, a LDC, EDC, Regulated Provider, or marketer shall not discontinue service to a residential consumer for an unpaid bill between November 15 and March 15 if:

(a) The consumer agrees in writing, using the consumer preferred method of communication, to pay the past-due balance including consumer charges in equal installments for a maximum duration beginning with the first billing period after March 15 and concluding prior to the following October 15, unless the consumer fails to comply with such an agreement;
(b) In addition, the consumer agrees in writing, using the consumer preferred method of communication, to pay all bills by their due date for current service received after said agreement unless the consumer fails to comply with such agreement;
(c) The forecasted local low temperature for a 48-hour period beginning at 8:00 A.M. on the date of the proposed disconnection is below 32° Fahrenheit.

Rule 515-3-3-.05(A) Disconnections for Multi-Family Dwellings by a Local Distribution Company

The LDC shall provide written notice at least five (5) days prior to any proposed utility disconnection to tenants of multi-family dwellings where the landlord or lessor is responsible for payment for utility services. Such notice shall be personally served on at least one adult in each dwelling unit or posted conspicuously on said premises when personal service cannot be made.

Rule 515-3-3-.05(B) Disconnections for Multi-Family Dwellings by a Marketer or Electing Distribution Company

The EDC or marketer, whichever has billing responsibility, shall provide written notice at least fifteen (15) days prior to any proposed utility disconnection to tenants of multi-family dwellings where the landlord or lessor is responsible for payment of utility services. Such notice shall be personally served on at least one adult in each dwelling unit or posted conspicuously on said premises when personal service cannot be made.

Rule 515-3-3-.06(A) Right of the Consumer

In the case of a disputed bill, the residential consumer shall have the right, after all remedial measures with the utility or marketer have failed, to request in writing, or orally to be followed by a request in writing, the Georgia Public Service Commission to investigate the dispute either before or after service has been terminated. Any late charges assessed in the case of a disputed bill shall be refunded if it is determined that the consumer does not owe the bill.

Rule 515-3-3-.06(B) Rights of the Consumer and Fines for Non-Compliance as Applicable to the Marketer

In the case of a disconnection of service alleged to be in violation of Commission Rule 515-3-3, the consumer shall notify the marketer in an effort to rectify the situation without the need for Commission intervention. A marketer shall use every reasonable means to resolve a customer complaint regarding a disconnection in error in order to prevent it from being brought to the Commission. Should a disconnection in error be the subject of a Commission hearing at which it is found that the marketer was in violation of the Commission rules and failed to use reasonable efforts to resolve the dispute, the Commission shall issue an order directing the marketer to provide the consumer with the appropriate refund, credit or remedy pursuant to this Commission Rule and pay the consumer $100, plus either $5 for each day that the consumer's complaint was not resolved, accruing from the date the Commission notified the marketer it was investigating the dispute, or an amount determined by Order of the Commission. At such a hearing, the marketer shall have the burden of proof to show that it was in compliance with this Commission Rule. In addition to the foregoing sanctions, the Commission also may order a marketer to pay all expenses incurred by the Commission as a result of having a hearing, including, but not be limited to, court reporter transcription charges; hearing officer fees; and an amount of money equal to that which the Commission expended in Staff time in investigating, hearing and adjudicating the complaint; and pay as contemplated in O.C.G.A. 46-2-91 any and all penalties determined by the Commission to be appropriate in light of the circumstances presented.

Rule 515-3-3-.07 Marketers Obligations

a. The marketer shall be responsible to the EDC for service to the consumer until the EDC has made the physical disconnection.
b. In the event a marketer requests disconnection for a consumer and the consumer makes satisfactory payment of the money owed to the marketer before the consumer is disconnected, the marketer shall send in a paid transaction to the EDC within one (1) business day after receipt of the payment.
c. A marketer shall not refuse to offer a consumer a reasonable payment arrangement at any time prior to physical disconnection by the EDC unless such consumer failed to honor a previous payment arrangement.
d. The marketer shall investigate and respond to complaints of disconnection in error referred by the Commission within one (1) business day of said referral.
e. The marketer shall reasonably confirm that a consumer requesting voluntary disconnection of service is the responsible party of record.
f. The marketer shall submit a notice to disconnect service at a vacated premises to the EDC within five (5) business days following a request for disconnection, unless the consumer indicates otherwise.
g. If the marketer records communications with the consumer, the EDC, or the Commission, regarding disconnections in error, payment arrangements, or a voluntary request for disconnection, or if the marketer receives written or electronic communications from the consumer, the EDC, or the Commission regarding a disconnection in error, a payment arrangement, or a voluntary request for disconnection, then the marketer shall retain copies of such communications for at least six (6) months.
h. The marketer shall not charge a consumer any reconnection fee or any other related charges resulting from a disconnection in error.
i. No marketer shall be authorized to prevent a consumer from obtaining distribution and commodity sales service from another marketer or provider.

Rule 515-3-3-.08 Electing Distribution Company Obligations

a. The EDC must disconnect a consumer within five (5) business days of the requested disconnection date following a request for disconnection from a marketer that is in compliance with all Commission orders and rules regarding service disconnection.
b. The EDC shall terminate the request for disconnection of a consumer's account within one (1) business day after a paid transaction is received from a marketer.
c. The EDC shall reconnect gas service within one (1) business day of the date it discovers that the disconnection was made in error, unless the number of disconnections in error for a given day pertains to more than one hundred (100) separate metering points. In this instance, the EDC shall make every effort, based on availability of resources, to reconnect gas service within two (2) business days of the date it discovers that the disconnection was made in error. This rule shall apply to disconnections in error made by either the EDC or the marketer. The EDC shall notify the Commission if the number of disconnections in error exceeds one hundred (100) separate metering points.
d. The EDC shall not charge a reconnection fee if it is determined that the EDC made the disconnection in error.
e. The EDC shall not disconnect a consumer on Fridays or national holidays.

Rule 515-3-3-.09 Disconnection Procedures for Regulated Provider

The Regulated Provider shall comply with the same disconnection procedures applicable to marketers except as otherwise provided by the Commission.

Rule 515-3-3-.10 Willful Violations

If the Commission finds, after notice and opportunity for a hearing, that any person, firm, or corporation subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission has willfully violated the provisions of this Rule Chapter, said person, firm, or corporation shall be subject to penalties under O.C.G.A. § 46-2-91.