What you Should Know and Special Protections
A Publication of the Arkansas Public Service Commission
The Arkansas Public Service Commission has taken a number of steps to ensure that customers have adequate notice of and protection from suspension of their utility service. The following information outlines the notice requirements and the protections available to you as a customer of a regulated public utility.
Reasons for Suspension
The PSC does allow companies to shut off service under the following conditions:
- For nonpayment of an undisputed bill, a payment arrangement, or a security deposit. Partial payments of a bill do not constitute payment unless you have a formal arrangement with your company.
- For tampering with company equipment or stealing service.
- For making false statements or committing fraud in obtaining service.
- For refusing to allow a meter to be read or equipment checked.
- For safety considerations that could cause harm to any person or the equipment of the company.
- For using the service in a manner that interferes with the use of service by other customers.
- For operating nonstandard equipment or unauthorized attachments.
- For using the service in a manner that violates federal, state, or local laws or regulations.
When a customer fails to pay a bill by the due date, a utility must send a shut-off notice before they can suspend service. At least five days written notice must be given. If the utility mails the notice, they must add three days to allow for mail delivery.
However, if a customer fails to keep the terms of a delayed payment agreement, tampers with or damages utility equipment, or obtains service through unauthorized or fraudulent means, a utility is not required to give notice before suspending service.
Employees of regulated utilities may be authorized to receive payment on site to prevent suspension of the service. However, for safety reasons, many utilities do not allow their employees to accept payment on site. If payment is refused on site, the utility must give the customer twenty-four hours to pay at the business office or an authorized payment agent of the utility. Most companies do charge the customer an approved fee for this service.
Reconnection of Service
If your service is shut off, contact your utility’s business office. When the reason for suspension has been eliminated, the utility will reconnect service, upon customer request, in the normal course of business. Most utilities have an approved fee for reconnecting service. If the customer requests reconnection after normal business hours, the utility may charge an approved “after hours” charge.
The PSC requires utilities to offer special protections to prevent suspension. While some of these protections apply only to specific groups of customers, many of the protections are available to all customers.
Third Party Notice. Residential customers may arrange for a third party to be provided a copy of any shut-off notice they receive. This is a particularly helpful arrangement for those customers whose schedule or health does not always allow them easy access to their mail.
Cold Weather Rule. Gas or electric service to residential customers cannot be disconnected on a day when a National Weather forecast predicts that a temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower will occur at any time during the next twenty-four hours.
Customers Who Are 65 years or Older or Handicapped. Every utility must have procedures that ensure identification of eligible customers who are 65 years or older or handicapped. Eligible, identified customers must receive personal contact for delinquency and help in arranging for assistance from other agencies.
Serious Medical Condition. If you or someone in your household, has a serious medical condition that your physician feels would get worse if you lost your service, your physician may notify the utility that this condition exists. The utility will send the physician a medical certificate to complete and return to the utility within seven days. The physician must certify that a medical emergency exists. The completion of this certificate for medical need of your service will postpone the suspension for up to thirty days.
Tenant Rights. PSC rules require that a shut-off notice be sent to a landlord which sets out the date when service will be disconnected. However, if the landlord does not respond within seven days, a shut-off notice must then be provided to tenants. Service will not be interrupted for at least 30 days past the date of delinquency. When possible, a utility will offer the opportunity to apply for service in a tenant’s name. Tenants cannot be charged for a landlord’s bill.
Social Service Agency Guarantee of Payment. If a social service agency agrees in writing to pay at least one-fourth of an overdue bill, a utility must continue to serve or reconnect service for that customer if a delayed payment agreement is entered for any past due amount. The utility may verify any notice received from any agency.
Hot Weather Rule. An electric or gas utility cannot suspend service to a customer who is identified as 65 years or older or handicapped if the National Weather forecast predicts a temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit will occur during the next twenty-four hours. For gas utilities, hot weather protection is limited to those customers with gas-operated air-conditioning units only.
If you have questions about a regulated utility or a problem you are unable to resolve, contact our Consumer Services Office. You can come to see us in person, write to us, or call us on our local or toll-free numbers.
Phone Numbers: 501-682-1718 1-800-482-1164
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 400
Little Rock, AR 72203-0400
Street Address: 1000 Center Street,
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
Arkansas Public Service Commission
Consumer Services Division
1000 Center Street
P.O. Box 400
Little Rock, AR 72203-0400
(toll free in Arkansas)
The Arkansas Public Service Commission does
not discriminate on the basis of race, color,
national origin, sex, religion, age or
disability in employment or in
the provision of services.