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Many of you have been following the issue with Eversource and its revamped “deposit policy”, as well as the formal complaint Representative Fisher has filed with the Public Utilities Commission [PUC]. You can read up on the complaint here, but the main point comes down to the term “in good standing” PUC rule 1203.03 states [emphasis mine];

  1. In lieu of a deposit, a utility shall:
    1. Accept the irrevocable written guarantee of a responsible party such as a social service organization, a municipal welfare agency, a bank, or a customer in good standing of the utility as a surety for a customer service account, provided that any such guarantee shall:
      1. Be in writing;
      2. Include the maximum amount guaranteed; and
      3. Specify that the utility shall not hold the guarantor liable for the sums in excess of the
        maximum amount guaranteed unless agreed to in a separate written agreement; or
    2. With the agreement of both the utility and the customer, establish a direct debit account
      whereby the customer’s payment shall be automatically debited from his/her bank account each month.

Leaving aside for a moment that ‘such as’ doesn’t typically imply an exhaustive list, what is the definition of ‘in good standing’? There is no definition given in the PUC rules, so presumably they’re going with the common use definition.

A quick google search will yield the following definition of in good standing, albeit in in varying vernacular;

in good standing is the status assigned to a member of an organization when he or she has remained current on organization dues and payments. Staying current with filing of required periodical reports such as registration, license and tax is also generally a criteria for a member to be in good standing. The term, however, must be construed under ordinary rules and with reference to the by-laws and constitution of the organization.

Seems simple enough. and since the PUC has no definition to speak of in the bylaws, this seems an open and shut question. Yet when an Eversource customer matching that exact criteria offered himself as a guarantor, Eversource rejected him, stating;

Eversource acknowledges that it would accept the written guarantee of [name redacted] if [name redacted] was a customer “in good standing.” However, the facts that [name redacted] is a customer of Eversource and is current on his bills are not sufficient, in themselves, to demonstrate that he is a customer “in good standing.” Accordingly, Eversource would not accept the proposed guarantee.

Eversource goes on to say that they require a person to be a customer for at least 12 months before Eversource considers them ‘in good standing’. Truthfully, not an unreasonable thing to do. The issue is, nothing under PUC rules gives them that discretion. When asked why they were increasing the number of customers from whom they were requiring deposits earlier this year, Eversource hid behind the letter of PUC rule 1203, which does give them that discretion. However, now Eversource wants the letter of the rule to be ignored so they can have the latitude to interpret the rule so as to benefit them.

So the ultimate question is, who makes the rules? Is it the Public Utilities Commission or the monopoly the PUC was created to reign in? Or perhaps, and this is a crazy notion, perhaps the laws should be written and voted on by the duly elected legislature.

We’ll see once the PUC issues their ruling.