The Cold Weather Rule, designed to help Kansans who are behind on their utility payments avoid disconnection during the winter months, will begin on November 1 and remain in effect through March 31.

The Kansas Corporation Commission, the agency that regulates public utilities in the state, encourages Kansans who are past-due on their utility bills and at risk for disconnection to prepare for the colder weather by contacting their utility company to make the necessary payment arrangements.

The Cold Weather Rule was first enacted by the Commission in 1983 to prevent utility companies from disconnecting a customer's natural gas or electric service during periods of extreme cold. Utility companies are prohibited from disconnecting a customer's service when temperatures are forecast to be at or below 35 degrees within the following 48 hour period.

The Cold Weather Rule also requires utility companies to offer a 12-month payment plan to allow consumers to maintain or re-establish service. Any residential customer with a past due balance will qualify for payment arrangements; however, it is the customer's responsibility to contact their gas or electric company to make those arrangements.

Payment plan terms to maintain or restore service require that customers agree to pay 1/12th of the total amount owed, 1/12th of the current bill, the full amount of any disconnection or reconnection fee, plus any applicable deposit to the utility. The remaining balance must be paid in equal payments over the next 11 months, in addition to the current monthly bill.

The Cold Weather Rule applies only to residential customers of electric and natural gas utility companies under the KCC's jurisdiction. More information about the Cold Weather Rule is available on the Commission’s website (http://www.kcc.ks.gov/consumer-information/cold-weather-rule). Kansans may also contact their local utility company or the KCC's Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection at (800) 662-0027.