Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in the case of Goldie King v. West Penn Power Company, Docket No. C-844087.
Edward S. Stiteler, for petitioner.
Richard A. Cohn, Assistant Counsel, with him, Louise A. Knight, Deputy Chief Counsel, and Charles F. Hoffman, Chief Counsel, for respondent.
Richard G. Fishman, for intervenor, Goldie King.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judge Doyle, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle. Dissenting Opinion by Senior Judge Kalish.
[ 104 Pa. Commw. Page 23]
This is an appeal by the West Penn Power Company (West Penn) from an order of the Public Utility Commission (Commission) adopting the order of Administrative Law Judge Solomon (ALJ), which directed that West Penn amend its Manual of Procedures pertaining to credit standards "to insure that the absence of prior credit history on the part of the customer does not, in and of itself, result in a determination that a customer is an unsatisfactory credit risk." The order further directed that the Manual of Procedures and related forms pertaining to the collection of security deposits from applicants be amended, thus ending West Penn's practice of "issuing a notice of termination prior to the occurrence of a default on the part of a customer who has been requested to pay a security deposit." The ALJ also ordered payment of a $250 civil fine. This amount was increased by the Commission to $1,000, but in all other respects the Commission adopted the order of the ALJ.
This case was brought before the Commission by a private complainant, Goldie King. King, who is separated from her husband, began receiving service from West Penn on January 17, 1984 at her residence at 214
[ 104 Pa. Commw. Page 24]
East Cherry Lane, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. On February 10, 1984 King completed a written application for electric service with West Penn. On her application, in answer to an inquiry as to the length of her lease, King marked "None." By letter dated February 24, 1984 West Penn notified King that "a security deposit would be necessary because of no prior credit history" and that if such deposit were not forthcoming by March 5, 1984 her service would be terminated. King had no credit history in her own name because all credit accounts had been maintained in her husband's name. In the same envelope as the above-described letter, West Penn enclosed a notice to King that her electric service "will be terminated on or after 8:30 a.m. March 5, 1984. This action is to be taken because your security deposit of $100.00 will be past due." At the time that these notices were sent to King, her account was current and not in any way delinquent. On March 2, 1984 King presented her one-year lease to West Penn, which then withdrew its request for a security deposit. At all times relevant to this case, West Penn's Manual of Procedures provision on credit standards read:
If service is connected pending credit investigation and customer's credit rating proves unsatisfactory, prepare Termination Notice for Applicant with Unsatisfactory Credit, form 11-191 [later retitled Security Deposit Request-Applicant] in duplicate and Termination Notice-Resident Ratepayer, form 11-189.
Commission Regulation 56.32, 52 Pa. Code § 56.32, relating to credit standards, states in relevant part:
A utility shall provide residential service without requiring a deposit when the applicant satisfies one of the following requirements . . .
(2) . . . The applicant . . . is renting his place of residence under a ...