No one wants their gas or electric service cut off, and there are multiple ways to avoid it.
Sometimes, however, new technology gets in the way.
Recently, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) called on DTE Energy to explain why it cut off power to roughly 5,000 customers last year. The shutoffs occurred when the company changed its billing system and customers started to have their service turned off without a second warning.
The commission has set a March 2 hearing to find out more.
DTE says it identified the defect in January, restored power immediately and self-reported the situation to the MPSC.
“We have maintained full transparency with the MPSC throughout the transition of our new billing system,” the company says. “We fully recognize the impact of the service interruptions, and understand that this is a serious inconvenience for our affected customers.”
DTE says it has implemented a system fix that will prevent this situation from happening again and will continue to improve the system to minimize errors.
It is examining the areas of interest outlined by the Michigan Public Service Commission and will file its testimony by the deadline of Feb. 23.
“Upgrading our customer systems throughout our enterprise is a tremendous undertaking that is central to our business operations,” the company says. “The vast majority of our customers had a seamless experience, and our new system has safeguards in place to avoid these situations in the future. Providing the best experience possible for our customers remains our priority.”
DTE services 244,136 customers in Detroit, including Highland Park, and 1.7 million in Southeast Michigan.
All that said, this seems like a good time to share information on DTE’s shutoff policies and how losing your service can be avoided.
Let’s start out with why you get a shut-off notice.
Gas and/or electric service may be shut off for any of the following reasons:
- Non-payment of past due DTE Energy bills
- Failure to pay a past due bill (not in dispute) that is owed by a member of the current household, if both parties lived at the previous address during the period when all or part of the past due bill was incurred
- Failure to pay a security deposit or provide a guarantor, if required
- Tampering with DTE equipment, such as the meter, or unauthorized use. Unauthorized use occurs when electricity or gas is accessed without having a valid DTE account, or when the meter has been bypassed or tampered with to prevent proper registration
- Failure to pay as agreed in a settlement agreement
- Refusal to allow DTE employees access to DTE Energy equipment installed at the premises, at reasonable times
- Using a false name to apply for service
- Violation of any other rules or regulations that endanger anyone’s personal safety or the operation of our energy delivery systems
DTE offers several plans, along with tips, that will help customers keep their service on.
Low income payment/energy efficiency help
The Low-Income Self Sufficiency Plan (LSP) helps low-income customers afford their bills, but also helps them get out of arrears. Some energy efficiency education/tips are provided as well. More than 40,000 residents were enrolled in LSP during the 2016-2017 program year.
DTE recently donated $10 million to Michigan outreach agencies to help provide energy assistance and drive enrollment of nearly 3,600 customers per year in the LSP payment program for the next four years. The donation was given to and administered by the Salvation Army, The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW) and the United Way for Southeastern Michigan.
The Energy Efficiency Assistance program provides energy efficiency solutions to qualifying low-income customers, such as a furnace test and tune-up, the possible replacement of refrigerator and a comprehensive home energy audit. There are also additional rebates available for purchase of energy-savings products. Customers must sign-up through participating weatherization and Community Action Agencies. For more information, please call toll-free at 866-796-0512.
Shutoff Protection Plan
All residential customers, regardless of income, can apply for the Shut-off Protection Plan. It provides year-round protection from shutoff if payments are maintained and is designed to help you manage energy use by setting up monthly payments. The past due balance is divided in equal installments for a period of nine to 12 months based on eligibility. The monthly payment amount is calculated based on the past due balance and projected future bills.
Senior citizens, especially those on fixed incomes, are often worried about paying their bills. The Senior Program offers electric and gas rates from which seniors may benefit. If you are 62 or older and head of the household, there may be rate options for which you qualify.
For those called to full-time active duty, DTE offers the Military Protection Plan, which allows you or your spouse to apply for shut-off protection for up to 90 days. Extensions can be requested by re-applying. Verification of active-duty status must be provided.
Double notification coverage
To be extra sure a user is aware of a shut-off notice there’s the Double-Notice Protection Plan, which sends a duplicate shut-off notice to a friend, relative or agency. That can be very helpful if you’re taking a long vacation, are in the hospital or are involved in something else that keeps you from paying your bill on time.
What to do if you move
If you are moving and want to discontinue your service, you need to contact DTE at least 10 business days before you move to allow time to schedule a service person to disconnect your service and take final readings. Make sure the service person has access to your meter. You are responsible for utility service until the final agreed upon date. You can request disconnection of your service online at dteenergy.com or by contacting Customer Service.
What to do in medical emergencies
Medical emergencies do come up, but that won’t stop a shutoff unless you let DTE know. Shutoff due to non-payment may be postponed up to 21 days, or, if previously shut off, can be restored for up to 21 days. Written proof from a doctor or notice from a public health official stating that service shut off will aggravate an existing medical emergency must be provided.
For those who are deaf, Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf (TDD) is available. More information is available by calling the special TDD telephone number at 800-888-6886.
For those who do not speak English, bilingual DTE Energy employees are available to assist. You can also contact the AT&T Language Line for verbal or written translations, voice recording, and free information at 800-874-9426.
When service is shutoff
Shutoff notices are sent at least 10 days before service is shut off. These notices are mailed to the account mailing address and to the address where the service is used. They include the approximate date of the shutoff and steps to take to avoid it, as well as how much is owed.
Those who cannot pay the entire bill or are behind in payments must contact DTE at 800-477-4747 before the service is subject to shutoff. The company will help set up a payment plan or advise you of assistance agencies in your area. Those affected can contact DTE and set up a reasonable payment agreement, as long as that person has not defaulted on an agreement within the last 12 months.
Service shut offs are conducted between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. A DTE representative has a record of the account and will explain the reason for the shutoff. If service is being shut off because a bill was not paid, proof of payment or proof the amount in question is in dispute must be shown to avoid shut off. A DTE representative will verify this information, but is not authorized to receive a payment at the site of a shut off. All representatives carry DTE Energy identification.
If the service is shut off DTE will leave a notice at the home. It will include DTE’s address and the telephone number to call to have service restored. When the past due amount and other applicable fees are paid or satisfactory payment arrangements are made, service is restored promptly upon your request.
Disputing payment amount
You can dispute the overdue amount by filing a complaint prior to the shut-off date on the enclosed bill. The service will not be shut off for the disputed amount, pending the resolution of the complaint with DTE Energy or the Michigan Public Service Commission.
If the complaint is not resolved a hearing can be requested before a hearing officer. The portion of the bill not in dispute must be paid to DTE within 10 business days of the date the hearing is requested.