This Unit investigates alleged or apparent violations of the Public Utilities Code, Commission regulations, and other California statutes involving stationary utilities, including telephone (including cellular and PCS) electric, gas, and water companies. This Unit's investigations generally involve various forms of consumer fraud and marketing abuses, and issues of public safety. Investigations are now ongoing into alleged and apparent violations and abuses involving telephone, electric, gas, and water utilities throughout California.
Since 1994, the Unit has conducted more than a dozen formal investigations (OIIs) of telephone companies engaged in the switching of telephone service without the customers' (telephone subscribers') informed consent. This practice, commonly referred to as "slamming," has been a major problem in California for the past several years. The Unit's formal investigations have resulted in penalties including fines, restitution for thousands of customers and suspension of operating authority for up to forty months. In response to the Unit's investigations, the Commission has also issued several "PIC freeze" orders against carriers, suspending their ability to have a customer switched to them on the initiative of the carrier. With a PIC freeze in effect, the telephone subscriber himself or herself must request the switch. To date, over 300,000 customers have been affected by the companies formally investigated by the Utility Enforcement Unit, many thousands of whom have received cash reparations pursuant to Commission orders. Some of these companies have also been criminally or civilly prosecuted.
The Unit has also investigated instances of cellular telephone companies erecting towers and placing antennae without the required local permits, approvals, and notices. Administrative fines totalling about $4 million have resulted from these investigations.
Consumer complaints regarding utilities should be directed to the Consumer Affairs Branch [CAB] at (800) 649-7570.