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Duke gets state approval on waiving fees

It can waive fees similar to the way it can do so after a hurricane hits.

Pointing to a need for flexibility in dealing with the effects of the coronavirus, the state Public Service Commission on Tuesday approved a plan that will allow Duke Energy Florida to waive customer fees — similar to the way it can waive fees after a hurricane hits.

“We applaud Duke for its actions to help customers facing financial hardships during this public health emergency,” commission Chairman Gary Clark said in a prepared statement after the approval. “Today, with these modifications, we provided the company with additional flexibility to mitigate customer impact.”

The commission regulates what utilities can charge customers through a system of what are known as “tariffs.”

Duke is allowed to charge extra fees for such thing as reconnecting service and late payments. It has been able to waive some charges if customers suffer damage from natural disasters.

But the utility said in a filing this month that it wanted to make clear it can waive fees in circumstances such as the coronavirus outbreak. It also sought authority to expand the types of fees that could be waived.

“DEF (Duke Energy Florida) currently has the ability to waive certain service charges in emergency conditions for natural disasters, but that language does not specifically address the type of state of emergency we are in today and does not apply to the imposition of other fees such as late payment charges or return check charges,” the filing said.

The utility, which has about 1.8 million customers in the state, pointed to difficulties that some customers are expected to have in making electric payments, “given the requirements to self-quarantine and other restrictions in place that will impact significant sectors of the workforce.”

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