Here are some of the guidelines CL&P must follow:
>> No service can be shut off without proper notice. CL&P must send a notice by first-class mail to the customer of record at least 13 days before the proposed shut-off date, according to the state's Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.
>> Shutoffs are prohibited on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, legal holidays and any day before a legal holiday.
>> CL&P cannot shut off hardship accounts enrolled in the Winter Protection Program, which extends from Nov. 1 to May 1.
>> Customers who refuse to pay a disputed bill cannot lose service.
"The last thing we want to do is disconnect any customer," says Gross. "If they are having problems, they should call us."
The safest, easiest way, to avoid a delinquent bill and possible service shut-off is enrolling in CL&P's Direct Debit payment option that automatically deducts the amount due from a customer's checking or savings account 21 days after the billing date.
PURA, when contacted by The Bottom Line, says it will review the case at Rice's request. (Rice says he will contact PURA "once my workload settles down.")
"PURA cannot analyze the legality of a specific complaintant and disconnection without full details — timeline of billing dates, notice dates and the like," says PURA spokesman Dennis Schain.
Five days without power is too long under any circumstances. Shutting off power only 33 days after a bill is mailed is not long enough, especially for customers who otherwise pay bills on time.
If you have a complaint about a utility, contact PURA's consumer affairs group at 1-800-382-4586, http://www.ct.gov/pura or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.