Frequently Asked Questions about Utility Complaints
If you believe that someone has used your personal information to set up a service, immediately contact your utility company. Also, file a report with your local police department.
If you believe you are being held responsible for utility bill charges set up fraudulently under your name and can provide proof of residence elsewhere, contact us at the Consumer Affairs Branch (CAB) to file an informal utility complaint.
Yes. A utility company may refuse to start service if you cannot follow the requirements outlined in the utility’s charges or rules. (We approve utility charges and rules.) If you are unable to resolve this issue with your utility, you may contact us at 800-649-7570.
You may be required to pay a deposit to set up or restart your utility service in some cases. The utility company may require you to pay a deposit if you cannot establish credit by another method. An example of another method is a letter of guarantee, a letter from someone who agrees to pay your bill if you do not.
You may also establish credit by proving that you have paid utility bills on time for the past twelve months. For electric and gas utilities, the deposit cannot be more than two times the average monthly bill for residential service.
Examples of situations when a utility may stop your service include unsafe or dangerous conditions, fraud cases, or the abandonment of a service location. A utility may end your service after giving you notice for not paying an outstanding bill or providing a security deposit, or breaking a rule that applies to the utility service. For most utilities, a bill becomes outstanding if it is not paid within 19 days after the bill is mailed or presented to the customer.
Phone service companies
Even when they stop your service, phone service companies must continue to provide access to call 911 and a number to contact the company when they shut off basic service due to nonpayment. A phone company may block calling features (like caller ID or voicemail) for overdue phone service charges before disconnecting the dial tone. The phone company is not required to notify you before they block the feature. We do not regulate the blocking of these features.
We do not directly regulate utility employee’s conduct. The utility controls utility employee conduct.
However, you may contact our Consumer Affairs Branch (CAB) at 800-649-7570 and ask to speak to the utility’s executive offices to report the incident. Be prepared to give details of the representative, including the employee’s name or ID number.
Before a utility disconnects service, the utility must give a 15-day written notice explaining:
The reason for the disconnection,
The amount that must be paid to avoid disconnection, and
The earliest date your service will be disconnected if you do not pay the amount owed.
If you did not pay after the first notice, the utility must give a second notice at least 48 hours before the disconnection and will make a final try to call you just before the disconnection.
Phone service providers must give you a disconnection notice at least 5 days before disconnecting your service. They must also continue to provide access to call 911 and access to a contact number at their utility.
Utilities may not disconnect or stop your service on the weekend or a legal holiday unless there is a safety issue that requires the service to be disconnected.
Yes. If a utility is unable to read your meter, they will estimate your usage. Reasons for estimating a bill may include severe weather, a locked gate, or blocked access due to a pet.
When a utility estimates a bill it uses the consumption for the same period the previous year, with some adjustments. The estimated bill is corrected when the utility is able to read the meter. If bills are estimated for more than 3 months in a row, the utility will let you know that it needs to access the meter.
Smart Meter opt-out
If you opt-out of a Smart Meter, you may have your meters read in alternating months. When regular, accurate meter readings are not available, or you have opted-out of the Smart Meter program, the utility may estimate your energy usage for billing purposes based on historical use and available meter readings.
You do not have to pay for products or services you did not authorize, but you must pay all the non-disputed charges on your bill while your issue is under review by the phone company or us. Withholding the payment of your bill’s undisputed amount can lead to the possible disconnection of phone service.
You must review your phone bills carefully to find any unauthorized charges. If you did not order the product or service in question, contact the company whose product or service you are being billed for and ask for a refund. You may also contact your utility provider and ask for a refund of the charges. Your phone company can also help you block unwanted calls and charges from those companies that have placed those unauthorized charges on your bill.
If you cannot resolve the issue with the billing company or your local phone company, contact us at the Consumer Affairs Branch (CAB) to file an unauthorized charge complaint.
Depending on your contract’s “terms and conditions,” we may be able to help you with an Early Termination Fee if there are compelling reasons you stopped your service. We can also help Wireline business consumers who feel they have been unfairly charged Early Termination Fees based on their contract. You can contact us to file an unauthorized charge complaint.
When a company switches your phone service without your permission, whether local or long distance, it is called slamming. Slamming is a violation of state and federal law.
Contact your old phone company and tell them about this unauthorized switch. They must work with the company you were switched to and switch you back. If you are not switched back, you should contact us to submit a complaint. We can help you with any unauthorized fees and ensure your service is returned to the carrier you want. Your complaint will also help us look into the offending carrier.
You are responsible for the inside wiring and phone jacks in your home. The utility is responsible for any equipment from a point called a Network Interface Device that is usually on the outside of your home.
Residential landlords are responsible for installing at least one usable phone jack in each unit and placing and maintaining standard phone wiring inside their rental units. If you have a problem and are not a tenant in a rental situation, you may do the repair work yourself, hire a vendor, or have your utility company send a technician for a fee.
We do not have authority over video (cable TV) and Internet services, including subscriptions, billing, and equipment offered by privately owned utilities.
If you cannot sort out your Cable TV problem with the company directly, you can contact your local city government for help. You may also contact Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help you with cable TV and Internet service problems.
If you have a question or complaint about your Internet provided phone service (also known as Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP) with names like U-verse or FiOS, we can try to help you. While we have limited power over VoIP services, you may contact us to submit a complaint with a detailed explanation of your problem with the VoIP company.