THE ARKANSAS PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION REQUIRES UTILITIES TO PROVIDE THIS INFORMATION
GENERAL INFORMATION FOR OUACHITA ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE, INC. CUSTOMERS
The Arkansas Public Service Commission requires that we publish the following general information about Ouachita County Electric Cooperative, Inc. The General Service Rules of the Arkansas Public Service Commission are available and on display at our office located at 510 North Broadway, Blytheville, Arkansas.
Bills will be rendered regularly and will show the essential facts upon which the bill is based. The bill will include the following information:
- Name, address and account number of the consumer;
- The beginning and ending meter readings;
- The date of the meter readings;
- The number of days in the billing period;
- The quantity of kWh consumed;
- The applicable rate schedule designation;
- The net amount of all payments and credits made during the billing period
- Any previous balance;
- The date the bill was mailed;
- The date the bill is due;
- A list of all charges and credits, including: Deposit installments; Deposit refunds; Automatic adjustments; Customer or minimum charges;
- Taxes by kind;
- Charges for non-utility merchandise, service or equipment;
- If meter is not accessible and the usage estimated, this fact will appear on the bill;
- Any abbreviations for terms that explain billing will be identified;
- A statement that the consumer may contact the utility about any problem with billing or service, or for a delayed payment agreement. This statement will include the address and telephone number where consumers can call the cooperative without charge.
The Cooperative has meter readers in some areas who are contracted through an outside employment service, as well as Cooperative employees who read meters in other areas. If access to a meter is not available to our meter readers, standard estimation is based on the consumption for the same time at that location the year before. If no figures are available for the current customer at that location for the previous year, the average usage for that customer class is used to estimate the bill.
The Cooperative uses the cyclometer type of meter, similar to the odometer on your auto, except for a few large power meters. To record your meter reading for your own use, simply copy the numbers from the meter register.
Where applicable, the automatic adjustment charges are Energy Cost Adjustment and Cost of Debt Adjustment. These adjustments are explained in detailed in the Summary of Rates.
A bill rendered by mail shall not be mailed later than the date indicated on the bill. All bills are due upon receipt and delinquent after the fourteenth day after the mailing date. Service may be suspended after a written notice has been given to the customer in the form of a "SHUT-OFF" notice. This notice will allow (8) additional days to pay the delinquent account prior to suspension of service.
When service has been suspended, the Cooperative will reconnect service as soon as the reason for the suspension has been resolved. If the reason was unlawful use of service, the Cooperative may suspend service without prior written notice. The Cooperative may, before reconnecting service, require a reasonable payment of estimated service rendered and a deposit equal to the estimated bill for six (6) average billing periods plus the cost of potential damage to Cooperative equipment or may refuse to reconnect service until ordered by the Arkansas Public Service Commission. If the reason for suspension is failure to pay a delinquent bill, the service will not be reconnected until the total amount of the bills, reconnection fees, and the required deposit amount have been paid.
Under certain conditions, a deposit may be required from new applicants to guarantee payment for the service. If required, the deposit may be paid in two equal installments, one prior to receiving service and the other with the first bill. In place of a deposit, the Cooperative will accept the written guaranty of a qualified third party who is a residential customer of the Cooperative or an acceptable Letter of Credit for at least the most previous 12-month period from the applicant's last electric supplier.
The amount of a deposit will not exceed two (2) average bills. (A deposit for a landlord may not exceed the estimated bill for three average billing periods.) The Cooperative shall pay simple interest on deposits at a rate set annually by the Arkansas Public Service Commission, and shall be credited to customer's account annually.
For existing customers, a deposit may be required (or increased) if any of the following conditions have occurred during the preceding twelve (12) months:
- Service is suspended for failure to pay.
- The customer failed to pay a bill before the close of business on the shut-off date within the last 12 months;
- The customer gave the utility 2 or more checks which were returned unpaid for reasons other than bank error in the last 12 months;
- The customer did not pay bills by the close of business on the due date 2 times in a row or any 3 times in the last 12 months;
- During the last 24 months, the customer misrepresented his identity or other facts relevant to the conditions under which the customer obtained or continued Cooperative service;
- The customer used service without authorization, tampered with Cooperative equipment, or inflicted damage to Cooperative equipment during the last 2 years;
- The customer used more service than the estimate on which the Cooperative based the deposit. The Cooperative may not charge any additional deposit under this section after the first 12 months of service unless the customer moves the service to a new location or expands the business or scope of operation at the original location;
- In accordance with the United States Bankruptcy Code, U.S.C.A. Title 11 S 366, the Cooperative may require a customer to furnish adequate assurance of payment in the form of a deposit or other security. This deposit may be in addition to all other deposits posted with the Cooperative before bankruptcy filing.
When the Cooperative charges a new or additional deposit, the total amount on deposit at any time shall not be more than the total of the customer's 2 highest bills during the last 12 months.
When final discontinuation of service is made by the Cooperative, the amount of the deposit, plus accrued interest, will be credited to the customer's account. A deposit shall automatically be refunded when a customer has, for twelve (12) consecutive months paid all bills prior to the due date or has rendered no more than one (1) check that was dishonored for reasons other than bank error.
All deposits will be in addition to the normal membership requirement of the Cooperative.
PROCEDURES TO AVOID SUSPENSION OF SERVICE:
DELAYED PAYMENT AGREEMENTS:
If you are unable to pay a bill in full and qualify for a delayed payment agreement, the Cooperative will not suspend service if the following arrangements are made prior to the "SHUT-OFF" date:
- You pay a reasonable portion of your bill; and
- You agree in writing to pay the balance of your bill in reasonable installments; and
- You agree in writing to pay in full all future bills during the period of the agreement by the due date.
MINIMUM STANDARDS FOR DELAYED PAYMENT AGREEMENTS
The Cooperative must receive a reasonable portion of the overdue bill as a down payment by the close of business on the third business day after arranging an agreement. The Cooperative may not require more than 1/4 of the overdue bill as the down payment in order to enter into a delayed payment agreement.
The Cooperative shall allow the customer to make equal installment payments for at least 3 months from the date of the down payment. The down payment shall not be considered an installment payment.
In arranging the delayed payment agreement, the Cooperative will consider the customer's ability to pay, the size of the unpaid account, the customer's payment history with the Cooperative and the reason the payment is late. The Cooperative's finance charge will not exceed 5/6 of 1% per month simple interest.
If a customer can substantiate a change in ability to pay resulting from a serious medical condition or the loss of a major source of income, the Cooperative must document its good faith effort to renegotiate a delayed payment agreement one (1) time during the period of the agreement. The customer loses this right if any term of the delayed payment agreement is not kept. A renegotiated agreement is not a new delayed payment agreement.
The Cooperative may suspend service without prior written notice, subject to Commission rules, if a customer does not keep the terms of a delayed payment agreement or extension agreement.
A customer does not give up the right to complain to the Commission by signing a delayed payment agreement or entering an extension agreement.
If the Cooperative bills a customer for an amount to correct a previous under billing, the customer is permitted to pay that amount under a delayed payment agreement that provides for repayment over a period equal to the period during which the under billing occurred. If the under billing is the fault of the Cooperative, or it is impossible to determine whether the previous under billing is the fault of the Cooperative or the customer, the Cooperative will not impose a finance charge on the delayed payment.
GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE INFORMATION:
The Cooperative will provide the customer with information about government assistance programs. This information will explain other avenues of payment assistance and additional services to aid the customer in paying energy-related costs.
CERTIFIED MEDICAL EMERGENCY:
The Cooperative will postpone the suspension of service to a residential customer for up to 30 days in cases where a "Certified Medical Emergency" exists. A "Certified Medical Emergency" exists when a customer furnishes the Cooperative with a statement signed by a physician stating that the suspension of service could give rise to a substantial risk of death or gravely impair the health of the customer or another permanent household resident. The certificate must identify the nature of the emergency, the consequences of being without service, and how long the emergency will likely exist. A certificate may be renewed one (1) time.
65 OR OLDER AND HANDICAPPED:
Qualifying residential customers who are 65 or older or handicapped members will be given special attention and consideration in regard to their electric service. "Handicapped Person" is any residential customer who is certified to the Cooperative as having a severe physical or mental impairment, which substantially limits his ability to pay for electric service. Certification shall be provided by a physician, licensed psychologist, the United States Veterans Administration, the Social Security Administration, the Arkansas Department of Human Services, the Arkansas State Hospital, or a licensed mental health center. Special efforts on behalf of qualifying customers include:
- Service will not be suspended in summer when the National Weather Service forecasts a temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
- At least 72 hours before suspending service to an identified elderly or handicapped account, the Cooperative will make 2 attempts at different times of day to contact the customer, an adult at the premises, or someone previously designated by the customer, either in person or by telephone, to explain that suspension of service is imminent and the steps that can be taken to avoid suspension.
THIRD PARTY NOTIFICATION:
If you feel there may be circumstances under which you would like a consenting person or agency to receive a copy of all "SHUT-OFF" notices, you will need to present the Cooperative with the name and address of the third party along with a signed statement by the third party authorizing us to send them a notice. The third party is not responsible for payment of the bill, but will receive the notice merely to remind the customer the bill is due in order to prevent service from being shut-off.
Certain landlord/tenants will receive special consideration regarding the suspension of electric service for non-payment. "Landlord" here means the owner, agent, manager, or lesser of premises who receives lease, rent, or other payments which include amounts for electric service. A "tenant" is the person occupying these premises.
Tenants whose landlord is responsible for paying for electric service rendered at the tenant's residence are entitled to the following considerations:
- Electric service will not be suspended until the tenant has been notified.
- There will be a delay of at least thirty (30) days before service will be suspended.
- When feasible, the tenant will be allowed to apply for service in his own name.
- The Cooperative will not recover from a tenant or condition service to a tenant on the payment of any amounts owed by the landlord.
The Cooperative requests all landlords who are paying for the electric service for a tenant, and all tenants whose landlord is paying the bill for their electric service, to identify themselves to the Cooperative.
SALES TAX EXEMPTIONS:
Residential customers with total household income of $12,000 or less per year are eligible to claim an exemption from sales tax on the first 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity used each month. To claim the exemption, the customer must file a form supplied by the Revenue Division of the Department of Finance and Administration. These forms may be obtained from the Commissioner of Revenues or from the Cooperative's office in person or by mail.
As noted on the official form, all claim forms are "subject to audit, for tax purposes, by the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration."
EXTENDED ABSENCE PAYMENT PLAN:
If you plan to be away from home for an extended period, you need to make arrangements for payment before you leave in order to avoid possible suspension of service.
- Different Address: If you will be absent during billing periods, it is advisable to give us an alternate address or a third party where we can send your bill.
- Pre-Payment: If during your absence, you cannot be reached at a different address, you may make a prepayment. We will estimate your bill based on previous billings, and you may pay in advance for the number of months you plan to be away.
- Bank Draw Draft: The Customer may arrange to have bills for service paid through our bank draw draft plan.
Remember, we have no way of knowing you are away unless you notify us.
EXTENDED DUE DATE PLAN:
An Extended Due Date Plan is available to qualifying residential customers and is intended to enable the Cooperative to change a customer's bill payment due date, at the customer's request, to coincide with or follow the customer's receipt of a fixed income payment. If normal billing dates fall within the same time frame of their checks, no extension is necessary. Customers who qualify under this plan and pay by the new date will not be considered late on their bill payment. Qualifying income sources are as follows:
- Persons receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFCD), or Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled (AABD);
- Persons receiving Supplemental Security Income; or,
- Persons whose primary source of income is Social Security or Veterans Administration disability or retirement benefits.
LEVELIZED BILLING PLAN:
A levelized billing plan is available to customers who qualify. Under this levelized billing plan, the customer's actual monthly bill will be computed in accordance with the applicable rate schedule and the customer's account debited with that amount.
The net amount payable each month will be determined by the Cooperative. The Cooperative will calculate the levelized billing amount based on a twelve-month history of the account if available. When billing history is not representative of anticipated future billings or there is no history available, the Cooperative may estimate the levelized amount based on the average of the customer class.
Billing under the levelized billing plan may be automatically terminated upon suspension of service. Any amounts owed for service billed under this plan shall be due as any other final bill for service. Any amounts overpaid for service billed under this plan shall be refunded to the customer.
A customer may withdraw from the plan at any time. The customer shall have the option of paying the account balance, if any, in full, or, if qualified, under a delayed payment arrangement. The Cooperative may charge a Commission-approved fee if a customer withdraws from the plan more than one time in twelve (12) months. The amount of the fee is set forth in the Cooperative's schedule of charges related to customer activity.
A customer can authorize his bank or savings and loan to allow the Cooperative to draw a draft for payment of his electric bill each month.
LIFE SUPPORT INFORMATION:
We are concerned about our customers who depend on respirators, dialysis machines and other life support equipment. This information is important to us, because when a storm causes a service outage, our linemen must have immediate access to the information. Service must be restored to these customers first and quickly. The Cooperative requests that any customer or family member who depends on equipment of this type, notify our office as quickly as possible.
STOPPING SERVICE BY CUSTOMER:
A customer who wants to stop service must provide the Cooperative with at least five (5) days notice that electric service will no longer be required at the location. The minimum five-day notice begins:
- On the day the customer telephones the utility or personally informs the appropriate employee at the local office; or,
- three (3) days after the customer mails the notice to the Cooperative.
If the customer has signed a written contract for a term of years under an Agreement for Electric Service with the Cooperative, the customer may stop service only under the terms and conditions as set forth in the Agreement for Electric Service.
CONSUMER INQUIRIES AND COMPLAINTS:
A consumer may verify the accuracy of a bill by contacting our business office. Our representatives are trained to handle consumer inquiries promptly and efficiently.
If you have a complaint, please contact our member service representative and state your problem. If you have a suggestion for resolving the complaint, please state it. Write down the name of the person to whom you talked.
The address and telephone number of the Cooperative office where inquiries may be made are as follows:
Ouachita Electric Cooperative Corporation
700 Bradley Ferry Road
PO Box 877
Camden, AR 71711-0877
Local Phone Number: 870-836-5791
Toll Free Number: 1-877-252-4538
If your complaint is not handled to your satisfaction, you may appeal to the Supervisor of the individual you talked with or the General Manager.
If you are still dissatisfied with the results of your complaint, you may contact the Arkansas Public Service Commission.
The toll free number is 877-252-4538
The address of the commission is:
PO Box 400
Little Rock, AR 72203-0400.
THE ARKANSAS PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION REQUIRES
UTILITIES TO PROVIDE THIS INFORMATION