You may be unaware of the rights you have as a utility consumer. But it's important that you understand these rights before filing a complaint with your utility or the Public Utility Commission (PUC).
PUC rules state that an electric or local telecommunications provider may refuse service for the following reasons:
Helping another consumer avoid paying his/her bill by applying for service at a location where that consumer already receives service.
Refusal to pay a deposit if you can't show satisfactory credit.
Failure to pay another utility for the same type of service you've requested.
Failure to pay the bill of another consumer for whom you signed a written guarantee.
Failure to comply with a Transmission and Distribution Service Provider (TDSP) tariff regarding operation of nonstandard equipment.
Utilities may not refuse service for the following reasons:
Failure to pay for non-regulated services, such as insurance policies or Internet service from your electric or telecommunications provider.
Failure to pay a bill for another utility's underbilling that occurred more than six months before the application date.
PUC rules state that an water or wastewater service provider may refuse service for the following reasons:
Failure to pay another utility for the same type of service you've requested (unless the debt is in dispute and deposit requirements have been met).
Failure to pay standby fees for the property which is to be serviced.
Primary point of use is outside the utility's certificated area.
The utility is prohibited from providing service under state law.
Utilities may not refuse service for the following reasons:
Violation of the utility's rules on non-standard equipment or unauthorized attachments (unless sufficient notice and reasonable time to resolve the problem have been provided).
Failure to pay the bill of another customer as a guarantor thereof (unless you signed a written guarantee as a condition of service.)
Failure to pay the bill of another customer at the same address (except when names were changed to avoid payment of a utility bill).
Failure to pay for a tap removed by the utility at its option or due to tampering or payment delinquency by a previous customer.
The customer chooses to use a type of backflow prevention assemby that is approved by state law but not preferred by the utlility.
Failure to comply with regulations or rules for anything other than the type of utility service specifically requested (including failure to comply with septic tank regulations or sewer hook-up requirements.
If an electric, local telecommunications, or water or wastewater service provider refuses to serve you, the utility must tell you why. If you don't agree, you may file a complaint with the PUC.
Failure to Pay: For consumers who do not pay their electric bill by the due date, their Retail Electric Provider (REP) may request that the TDSP disconnect the electric service after the expiration of a required 10-day notice period.
Disconnection with Notice: Prior to disconnecting your service, your REP must provide you with a written Disconnection Notice. This notice must be mailed to you separately (or hand-delivered) no earlier than the first day after the date your bill is due. The disconnection date must be 10 days from the date the notice is issued and may not fall on a holiday or weekend (or the day preceding) unless the REP's personnel are available on those days to take payments or make payment arrangements and service can be reconnected. The PUC has provided that your REP may be allowed to authorize disconnection of your electric service for any of the reasons listed below:
Failure to pay a bill owed to the REP or to make a deferred payment arrangement by the date of disconnection.
Failure to comply with the terms of a deferred payment arrangement or other payment agreement made with the REP.
Using service in a manner that interferes with the service of others or the operation of nonstandard equipment.
Failure to pay a deposit required by the REP.
Failure of a guarantor to pay the amount guaranteed when the REP has a written agreement, signed by the guarantor, which allows for disconnection of the guarantor's service.
Disconnection without Prior Notice: Any REP or TDSP may, at any time, authorize disconnection of a consumer's electric service without prior notice for any of the following reasons:
Where a known dangerous condition exists for as long as the condition exists. Where reasonable, given the nature of the hazardous condition, the REP, or its agent, shall post a notice of disconnection and the reason for the disconnection at the place of common entry or upon the front door of each affected residential unit as soon as possible after service has been disconnected.
Where service is connected without authority by a person who has not made application for service.
Where service is reconnected without authority after disconnection for nonpayment.
Where there has been tampering with the equipment of the transmission and distribution utility, municipally-owned utility, or electric cooperative.
Where there is evidence of theft of service.
Your REP may not authorize disconnection of your electric service for any of the following reasons:
For non-payment for electric service by a previous occupant of the premise if that occupant is not of the same household.
For non-payment of any charge unrelated to electric service.
For non-payment of a different type or class of electric service not included on the account's bill when service was initiated.
For non-payment of under-billed charges that occurred more than 6 months prior to current billing (except in cases of theft of service or meter tampering).
For non-payment of any disputed charges until your REP or the PUC determines the accuracy of the charges and you have been notified of this determination.
For non-payment of an estimated bill unless the estimated bill is part of a pre-approved meter-reading program or in the event the TDSP is unable to read the meter due to circumstances beyond its control.
If the REP receives notification by the final due date stated on the disconnection notice that an energy assistance provider will be forwarding sufficient payment on your account, and you have paid or made payment arrangements to pay any outstanding debt not covered by the energy assistance provider's payment.
For non-payment during an extreme weather emergency, and upon request, the REP must offer you a deferred payment plan for bills due during the emergency.
For non-payment, prior to the disconnection date stated on the notice, if you have established with the REP that you or another resident on the premises has a critical medical condition and will become seriously ill or more seriously ill if there is a disconnection of service. To obtain this exemption, you must enter into a deferred payment plan with your REP and have the ill person's attending physician contact the REP and submit a written statement attesting to the necessity of electric service to support life. This exemption from disconnection due to illness or disability shall be in effect for 63 days and may be applied for again after the 63 days has expired and the deferred payment plan has been fulfilled.
PUC rules prohibit local phone companies from disconnecting local phone service for non-payment of long distance charges.
Disconnection notices must advise consumers what portion of their bill must be paid to keep their local phone service. This amount may not include long distance charges.
Disconnection with Notice: Prior to disconnecting your service, your provider must provide a separate written statement in English and Spanish (or electronic statement if customer opted for this) no sooner than one day after the bill due date. The notice must state the date of suspension or disconnection with the words “suspension notice,” or “disconnection notice,” or similar language prominently displayed. The suspension or disconnection date cannot be less than 10 days after the notice is issued. The notice must also indicate the amount due to maintain local landline service and must include a statement notifying customers that if they need assistance paying their bill, or are ill and unable to pay their bill, they may be able to make some alternative payment arrangement or establish a deferred payment plan. The notice shall advise customers to contact the provider for more information.
After proper notice has been provided, your telecommuniations provider can disconnect your local landline service for the reasons listed below:
Failure to pay local service charges or make deferred payment arrangements by the date of suspension or disconnection.
Failure to pay long distance charges incurred after toll blocking was imposed.
Failure to pay long distance charges the provider is allowed, through its tariff and contracts, to charge and collect, or make deferred payment arrangements by the date of suspension or disconnection.
Failure to comply with the terms of a deferred payment agreement (unless you are a prepaid local phone service customer).
Violation of the provider's rules on the use of service in a manner which interferes with the service of others or the operation of nonstandard equipment, if a reasonable attempt has been made to notify the customer and the customer has a reasonable opportunity to resolve the problem.
Failure to pay a deposit.
Failure of the guarantor to pay the amount guaranteed, when the provider has a written agreement, signed by the guarantor, that allows for disconnection of the guarantor’s service for nonpayment.
Disconnection without Prior Notice: A provider may suspend or disconnect local landline service without prior notice for any of the following reasons:
Where service is connected without authority.
Where service was reconnected without authority.
Where there are instances of tampering with the provider’s equipment, evidence of theft of service, or other acts to defraud the provider.
Your local landline service provider may not suspend or disconnect your local landline service for any of the following reasons:
Failure to pay for any charges that are not provided for in a provider’s tariffs.
Failure to pay for a different type or class of service unless charges were included on the bill at the time service was initiated.
Failure to pay charges resulting from underbilling that is more than six months before the current billing (except for theft of service).
Failure to pay disputed charges until a determination is made on the accuracy of the charges.
Failure of a residential customer to pay for any charges other than tariffed local landline services (except for the nonpayment of long distance charges incurred after toll blocking was imposed).
Disconnection with Notice: Prior to disconnecting your service, your water or service utility company must provide you with a separate written statement, in English and Spanish, by mail or hand delivered. The disconnection date must be 10 days from the date the notice is issued unless a shorter time is authorized by the Public Utility Commission. The notice must include the intended date of disconnection, the total past due charges, all reconnect fees, and the company's office work hours and contact information.
If the notice is provided by a service service provider, the notice must state that failure to pay past due sewer charges will result in termination of water service and that water service will not be reconnected until all past due and currently due sewer service charges and the sewer reconnect fee are paid.
After proper notice has been provided, your water or sewer utility company can disconnect your water and wastewater service for the reasons listed below:
Payment by check which has been rejected for insufficient funds, closed account, or for which a stop payment order has been issued is not deemed to be payment to the utility.
Violation of the utility's rules pertaining to the use of service in a manner which interferes with the service of others.
Operation of non-standard equipment, if a reasonable attempt has been made to notify the customer and the customer is provided with a reasonable opportunity to remedy the situation.
Failure to comply with deposit or guarantee arrangements where required by PUC Substantive Rule §24.84, relating to Service Applicant and Customer Deposits.
Failure to pay charges for sewer service provided by another retail public utility.
Failure to pay solid waste disposal fees collected under contract with a county or other public agency.
Disconnection without Prior Notice: A water or wastewater utility may disconnect service without prior written notice for any of the following reasons:
Dangerous conditions exist on the property that would prohibit the service from being provided safely. Where reasonable, a reason for disconnection must be posted at the front door or main point of entry.
Where service is connected without authority.
Where service has been reconnected without authority following termination of service for nonpayment.
Where there is evidenece of meter or equipment tampering or bypassing , or other instances of diversion.
Your water or wastewater utility may not suspend or disconnect your water or wastewater service for any of the following reasons:
Failure to pay for merchandise or charges for non-utility service provided by the utility.
Failure to pay for a different type or class of utility service unless the fee for such service is included on the same bill, or unless such disconnection is permitted under PUC rules.
Failure to pay the account of another customer as guarantor thereof, unless written guarantee was a condition to provide service.
Failure to pay charges arising from an underbilling due to any faulty metering, unless the meter has been tampered with or unless such underbilling charges are due under PUC rule.
Failure to pay an estimated bill other than a bill generated under an approved meterreading plan, unless the utility is unable to read the meter due to circumstances beyond its control.
Failure to comply with regulations or rules regarding anything other than the type of service being provided including failure to comply with septic tank regulations or sewer hook-up requirements.
Refusal of a current customer to sign a service agreement.
Failure to pay standby fees.