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Dec 18, 2009 1:09 PM by Ariel Wesler

Utility companies stop shutoffs for the holidays

California's utility companies are cutting customers a break this holiday season who have been falling behind on their gas and electric bills.

PG&E and the Southern California Gas Company have agreed not to shutoff utilities until January 4th, helping customers get through the holidays.

In the past year, a soaring number of people have had their gas and electricity disconnected.

As California's unemployment rate rose past 12 percent this year, more and more utility customers missed payments, but consumer advocates also blame higher rates for the rising number of cut-offs.

The utilities commission is scheduled to vote today on the latest rate request from PG&E, which wants to increase rates 5 percent for customers in the lowest tier of electricity usage.

Until the second quarter of 2011, PG&E will suspend its practice of demanding a deposit from disconnected customers before their service is restored.

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