20.32.01.04

.04 Inquiry to Public Service Commission.

A. If a customer disputes a utilityís, a supplierís, or a Subscriber organizationís determination under Regulation .03 of this chapter, the customer may submit an inquiry to the Commission within 7 days of receipt of the determination.

B. If a customer contacts the Commission or its staff before contacting the utility, the supplier, or the subscriber organization, the customer shall be advised of Regulation .03 of this chapter and referred to the utility, supplier, or the subscriber organization.

C. The Office of External Relations may review and investigate an inquiry referred by the Commission, its staff, or a customer.

(1) If the OER initiates an investigation, it shall:

(a) Inform the utility or supplier in writing that an investigation shall be opened; and

(b) Request information from the utility or supplier to review the inquiry.

(2) When engaging in an investigation, the OER may consult with other agencies including the Commission staff, the Attorney Generalís Office or the Office of Peopleís Counsel.

(3) The OER shall close its investigation in writing if:

(a) The OER determines that no further investigation is necessary or warranted;

(b) The OER determines that the Commission has no jurisdiction to pursue an investigation;

(c) A satisfactory resolution to the inquiry is reached; or

(d) Any reason that requires closure of the investigation.

(4) The OER may submit a summary of its written findings and conclusions to the Commission if no resolution is reached.

(5) The summary of written findings and conclusions shall be treated as an appeal under COMAR 20.32(M).

D. OER may require that a customer submit a written inquiry to expedite investigation of a dispute.

E. A written inquiry shall include:

(1) The name, address, telephone number, and account number of the customer;

(2) The name of the utility and supplier, if there is one;

(3) The reason for the inquiry or dispute;

(4) A summary of the customerís efforts to resolve the inquiry or dispute with the utility or supplier; and

(5) Copies of bills, termination notices, correspondence, or other documentation relevant to the inquiry.

F. After receipt of an inquiry, OER shall initiate a review and an investigation to resolve the matter that includes but is not limited to:

(1) Obtaining information from the utility or supplier and customer;

(2) Reviewing applicable statutes, regulations, and tariffs; and

(3) Mediating between the parties.

G. A utility, a supplier, a subscriber organization, and a customer may be given an opportunity to respond to the position or information provided to OER by the other party.

H. A utility and a supplier or subscriber organization shall respond to an OER request for investigation or information and shall make a good faith attempt to do so within 7 working days of its receipt.

I. An inquiry or dispute brought under this subtitle may be closed if OER determines in the course of its investigation that the:

(1) Customer has not dealt with the utility, the supplier, or the subscriber organization in good faith;

(2) Customer has otherwise failed to comply with COMAR Title 20; or

(3) Utility, supplier, or subscriber organization has complied with Public Utilities Article, Annotated Code of Maryland, the Commissionís regulations and orders, and the utilityís own tariff.

J. OER shall provide the utility, the supplier if there is one, the subscriber organization, if there is one, and the customer with a written summary of its findings and conclusions on completion of its investigation.

K. If OER believes that a dispute or inquiry has been satisfactorily resolved, the parties shall be advised that no further action will be taken, and that the file will be closed unless a request for further review under §L of this regulation is submitted.

L. Request for Further Review.

(1) Parties may request further review of an inquiry or dispute by filing a written request with the Assistant Director of OER within 10 days after receiving OERís summary of its findings or conclusions, or notice that a file has been closed.

(2) A request for further review shall include:

(a) An explanation of the need for further review;

(b) The action or relief requested; and

(c) New or additional information or documentation relevant to the dispute.

(3) The Assistant Director may further investigate, as warranted, or convene an informal conference among the parties, to mediate or resolve the dispute.

(4) The Assistant Director shall advise the utility and the customer of the disposition of the request for further review.

M. The Assistant Directorís disposition may be appealed to the Commission within 10 days of its receipt by filing a complaint under Public Utilities Article, §3-102, Annotated Code of Maryland, and COMAR 20.07.03.

N. Pending the disposition of a customerís inquiry or dispute by the Public Service Commission, a utility:

(1) May require a customer to pay only the undisputed portion of a bill; and

(2) May not terminate a customerís service or pursue recovery through third party collection efforts of any charges or fees billed to the customer but not purchased by the utility, except for reasons permissible under COMAR 20.31.02.03.