Consumer Affairs Branch Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. In general, a utility provider may refuse to initiate service if the requesting customer cannot comply with the requirements outlined in the utility’s tariffs or rules. Utility tariffs and rules are authorized by the CPUC. If you are unable to resolve this issue with your utility, you may contact the CPUC Consumer Affairs Branch (CAB) at 800-649-7570.
In certain cases, you may be required to pay a deposit to establish or re-establish utility service. The utility provider may require you to pay a deposit if you cannot establish credit by another method such as a letter from someone who agrees to pay your bill if you do not. This is called a letter of guarantee. In addition, utility customers may establish credit by demonstrating that they have paid utility bills on time for the preceding twelve months. For electric and gas utilities, the deposit cannot exceed two times the average monthly bill for residential service.
Utilities may terminate service without notice in certain limited situations. For example, unsafe or hazardous conditions, cases of fraud, or in the abandonment of a service location. In general, the utilities may terminate service, after providing notice to the occupant, for failure to pay a delinquent bill or provide a security deposit, or for violating a rule applicable to the utility service. Most utilities consider a bill to be delinquent if not paid within 19 days after the bill is mailed / presented to the customer.
Telecommunications utilities must continue to provide access to call 911 and a number to contact the utility when they shut off basic service temporarily due to nonpayment. A telecommunications utility may block calling features (like caller ID or voicemail) for delinquent telephone service charges, before disconnecting dial tone. Blocking of these features is not regulated by the CPUC. The telephone company is not required to give notice prior to the actual blocking of the feature.
Before a utility disconnects service, the company must provide a 15-day written notice explaining: the reason for the disconnection, the amount which must be paid in order to avoid disconnection and the earliest date you will be disconnected if you fail to pay the amount owed. If not paid after the first notice, the utility must provide a second notice at least 48 hours prior to the disconnection and will make a final attempt to call just prior to disconnection.
Telecommunications utilities are required to give you a disconnection notice at least five days before disconnecting your service. However, they must continue to provide access to call 911 and access to a contact number at the utility.
The CPUC does not have jurisdiction over all technologies offered by privately owned utilities. This includes video (cable TV) and Internet services, including subscriptions, billing, and equipment. If you are not able to resolve your issue with the company directly, for cable TV services please contact your local city government for assistance. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may offer additional assistance for disputes about cable TV and Internet services.
However, if you have a question or complaint about your Internet provided phone service (also known as Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP), that is marketed under such brand names as U-verse or FiOS, we will attempt to assist you. While the CPUC has limited jurisdiction over VoIP services you may contact the CPUC Consumer Affairs Branch (CAB) to submit a complaint in writing with a detailed explanation of your problem with the VoIP service provider. More information on how to file a complaint.