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Mon, Sept. 23

UniSource suspends summer shutoffs over nonpayments

UniSource Energy Services has announced it has temporarily suspended service disconnections for customers who fall behind on their bill payments for the duration of the commission’s review process. (Daily Miner file photo)

UniSource Energy Services has announced it has temporarily suspended service disconnections for customers who fall behind on their bill payments for the duration of the commission’s review process. (Daily Miner file photo)

LAKE HAVASU CITY - Electricity can be a matter of life and death in northwestern Arizona's intense summer heat. And as temperatures rise, the Arizona Corporation Commission is reviewing how and when state-regulated utilities can cut power to their customers.

Under today’s Arizona Administrative Codes, utility companies can disconnect power to residents who fail to pay delinquent bills, maintain their deposits, fail to provide reasonable access to electrical equipment, or if there is evidence of meter-tampering or fraud by a customer. Last Thursday, however, the commission chose to take a closer look at utilities’ ability to do so in light of public health concerns.

The issue was raised after a 72-year-old Sun City woman died in her home last September without air conditioning, after utility company Arizona Public Service disconnected her electrical service for failure to pay her bill.

UniSource Energy Services media relations official Joe Barrios says the company will work with customers and the Arizona Corporation Commission to ensure that as many people maintain power as possible to keep them cool, and keep them safe.

“We support the Arizona Corporation Commission’s review of disconnection rules and practices, and look forward to examining this issue with commissioners, community representatives and other stakeholders,” Barrios said.

According to Barrios, UES has temporarily suspended service disconnections for customers who fall behind on their bill payments for the duration of the commission’s review process.

“We encourage customers to contact us if they’re having trouble paying their bills,” Barrios said. “Our customer care team can work with them directly to offer bill payment extensions, establish reasonable payment plans for overdue balances, and make them aware of emergency bill-payment assistance options for limited-income customers.”

Barrios said a total number of customers disconnected due to non-payment was still being compiled as of last week, for review by the Arizona Corporation Commission. However, he said that anyone concerned about higher electrical bills this summer could find help through the company’s website at https://www.uesaz.com/news/need-help-just-ask/.

The website offers a series of phone numbers and external links for emergency electrical bill assistance, and information on how to request payment extension from UniSource when summer bills become too high.

“If you know you will be late or unable to pay your bill by the due date, contact us immediately,” said UniSource Director of Customer Service Denise Richerson-Smith. “We are willing to work with customers to provide options and resources to help them pay their bills, especially during extreme temperatures.”

For more information, contact UniSource Energy Services at 877-837-4968, or visit www.uesaz.com.

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