Going without power for up to five days is hard enough, but the estimated 2.4 million affected by this week’s PG&E power outages also won’t be getting any relief for their bank accounts.
Because PG&E’s wildfire-prevention outage — the largest it has ever taken — is for safety reasons, the utility’s terms say its customers cannot file claims for damages. That goes for everything from spoiled salmon fillets in the fridge to lost business income.
“In regards to the impact on customer bills, PG&E does not reimburse customers for losses, as power will be shut off for safety due to extreme fire danger conditions,” PG&E spokeswoman Andrea Menniti told SFGATE. “Because a Public Safety Power Shutoff could last for several days, we encourage customers to plan accordingly.”
The claim form, which has spread wildly on social media as power shutoffs have commenced, also explicitly states you need to have gone without power due to “severe storm conditions” specifically and doubles down on the site’s Safety Net Compensation explainer that your power outage “must be the result of a major weather-related event.”
The best recourse customers have is to check their property insurance policies to see if their insurer compensates for losses from a power outage. However, this requires reading some fine print to see exactly what kinds of power outages are involved.
The homeowners insurance under AAA does include spoiled food, but you’ll need to check your specific policy. The company website says, “Some policies don’t cover widespread power outages, for example, or flooding-related outages.”
USAA’s insurance also offers protection for spoiled food, with a cap of about $500. But once again, it depends on the policy.
Business owners may or may not be able to file insurance claims for loss of income. Once again, it depends on the policy and factors such as whether the insurance covers power outages that originated off the property.
What customers can do, once they get their power back, is prepare for future such outages, either with backup power sources or an insurance policy. With wildfire season an annual reality in California, more precautionary outages seem likely to follow.
And, it seems, most PG&E customers are already getting the hint they won’t be able to turn to PG&E for relief. While 146 claims were filed against PG&E after an October 2018 shut-off that lasted two to three days – PG&E rejected all the claims – no one filed a claim after a June shut-off this year that lasted under 24 hours.
FULL PG&E SHUT-OFF COVERAGE:
Greg Keraghosian is an SFGATE homepage editor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org