POST-SESSION UPDATE: UTILITY CUSTOMER INFORMATION MAY NOT BE DISCLOSED
In an effort to protect sensitive customer information from predatory practices, the legislature passed H.B. 872. H.B. 872 applies to information held by a municipally owned utility (MOU) that provides water, wastewater, sewer, gas, garbage, electricity, or drainage service.
Effective immediately, an MOU may not disclose customer information (including the customer’s address) under the Public Information Act (PIA) unless the customer elects to make the information public or certain exceptions apply. Also excluded from public disclosure is information: (1) that reveals whether an account is delinquent or eligible for disconnection; and (2) collected as part of an advanced metering system.
H.B. 872 essentially reverses the prior law’s requirements. Before H.B. 872, utility customers had to fill out a form to request their information remain confidential. Failure to do so made the customer’s information public. Now, a customer’s information is protected unless the customer opts to make it public.
MOU customers may elect to make their information public by filling out a form requesting disclosure of their personal information in response to PIA requests. To give customers this option, an MOU must include with a bill sent to each customer or post on its Internet website: (1) a notice of the customer’s right to request disclosure; and (2) a form the customer may use to request disclosure by marking the appropriate box and returning it by mail or electronically. The League’s legal department has prepared an example form for customers to request disclosure of their records. This is just an example, and each city’s attorney should review the form prior to its use.
In sum, to comply with H.B. 872, an MOU must: (1) create the required form; (2) send the form with its bills or post it on the MOU’s website; and (3) maintain the confidentiality of its customers’ information in response to PIA requests, unless a customer has requested the MOU disclose the customer’s information or an exception applies.