Everything You Need to Know About Energy Service Disconnection
At some point in your life, you might have found yourself struggling financially, and thus unable to bear your expenses. Things don’t always turn out as planned. For instance, a natural calamity, such as the February 2021 winter storm, can turn the tables against you in no time. An unprecedented visit to the hospital can consume your entire monthly budget. Or, you may not be able to do good business in the past month. In such circumstances, you probably would have to cut your expenses and delay paying your bills.
But, overdue charges will result in Electricity Disconnection, right? Well, not immediately – at least. The Public Utility Commission (PUC) guarantees you certain rights that help you avoid surprise disconnections.
You should know the rules, and your rights on utility disconnection, as declared by the PUC. Don’t have time to go through the entire consumer protection law document? – we are here to make your life easier with our simple-to-follow article. Keep reading, keep learning!
Electricity Disconnection Laws
Afraid of electricity disconnection? No need to worry because the Public Utility Commission has crafted well-defined laws on the disconnection of electricity. They have been elaborated on, below.
In case the customer fails to pay the bill, the disconnection can occur no earlier than a 10-day period after the due date has passed.
A written notice of disconnection must be delivered to the customer no earlier than the day after the due date. The disconnection can only be processed after 10 days from the date the notice is issued. Moreover, the day of disconnection can not be a weekend or a holiday unless the electricity provider’s staff is available to receive payments or make payment arrangements, and the service can be reconnected.
Reasons For Utility Service Disconnection
Your electricity provider may authorize disconnection for the following reasons:
- Failure to pay charges or enter into a deferred plan with the electricity provider by the expiration date of the disconnection notice.
- Electric service theft.
- Tampering with the utility’s equipment.
- Operation of non-standard equipment.
- Fire or hazardous conditions associated with the use of electric utility service.
Disconnecting With Prior Notice
PUC prompts every retail electric provider to issue a written notice of disconnection no earlier than the first day after the utility bill’s due date. The disconnection date must be 10 days after the date of issuance of the disconnection notice. Moreover, the day of disconnection must not be a holiday or weekend unless staff is available to take payment or make payment arrangements and the electric service can be reconnected.
The notice of disconnection will be issued in the following scenarios:
- The customer fails to pay the electricity bill by the due date or makes arrangements for a deferred payment plan.
- The customer does not follow the terms of the deferred payment agreement.
- The guarantor fails to pay the agreed-upon amount to REP. As per the agreement, this allows for disconnection of the electric service being enjoyed by the guarantor
- A deposit, required by the REP, is not paid.
- Non-standard equipment is operated.
- Electric service is utilized in a way that disturbs the quality of service to others.
Disconnecting Without Notice
Often you may forget to pay the bill on time. A disconnection notice seems to be the best possible idea. At least it makes the customer aware of a possible disconnection led by trifling mistakes.
What if the light suddenly goes out due to disconnection? Is it even allowed by the Public Utility Commission – and in what cases?
Yes, an electricity disconnection without notice is possible. Before you start getting worried, read the following reasons for such an undesirable event.
- The REP may authorize disconnection if a hazardous condition, associated with the use of electric service, exists. The notice needs to be posted as soon as possible after the disconnection. It should state the reasons for disconnection.
- When service theft is found.
- When reconnection is carried out without permission after disconnection.
- Tampering with the utility’s equipment is discovered.
- The individual is utilizing the electric utility service they had not applied for.
Exceptions to Service Disconnection
Exceptions always exist! There is more to the story, and you have the right to know. Certain situations have been defined by the PUC when the REP may not authorize electric service disconnection for non-payment.
The two major and often encountered exceptions to service disconnection are:
Ø Seasonal hold
Ø Serious Illness
The weather is in no one’s control. Circumstances can get out of hand pretty quickly when mother nature shows its might. For instance, the February winter storm had devastating effects on the citizens.
In such circumstances, a residential customer can neither afford to pay the utility bills nor bear the service disconnection.
This is where the PUC steps in. The commission prompts the providers to put the service disconnections on hold until the situation gets better again. Some REPs might voluntarily delay the disconnections to help ease the conditions for their customers. The energy providers must offer you deferred payment arrangements if you, as a customer, make such a request.
In winters the disconnection will not occur if the forecasted temperature is below 32oF (or 0oC) for 24 hours, starting from 8:00 am on the date of disconnection. The customer needs to agree on paying all the past due balance in equal installments between 15th March and 15th October.
In summers the disconnection will not occur if prior to 8:00 am on the disconnection day, a heat warning is in effect or forecasted to be in effect.
The state has crafted laws that forbid the REP to disconnect electricity service, due to non-payment of charges, if it may worsen the medical condition of a patient living on the premise.
This exemption can only be availed if the customer agrees to enter into the deferred plan with your energy provider. A written statement by the patient’s attending doctor or physician is also required to be submitted to the REP. The statement should attest to the necessity of electricity for the ill person’s health.
The exemption can only last a maximum of 63 days after which it will expire. It can be reinitiated after expiry provided that the terms of the deferred plan have been fulfilled.
Other state rules are there to protect you from disconnection under the following circumstances:
- Failure to pay charges unrelated to the service.
- Non-payment of charges by the previous occupant if that person does not belong to the same household.
- Failure to pay under-billed charges that occurred more than 6 months preceding current billing (theft service or meter tampering are exceptions).
- Non-payment of a different class of electric service that was initially not included when the service had started.
- Failure to pay any disputed dues until accurate charges have been determined by the REP or PUC, and you have been notified.
- Failure to pay any estimated charges provided that estimated bills are not part of the approved meter-reading program or TDU/TDSP is unable to read the meter in any possible way.
- The REP receives your energy assistance provider’s payment notification and that you have made arrangements for (or have paid) any outstanding debt.
Disconnection for Multi-Family Dwellings
The marketer is responsible for sending a written notice to the residents of multi-family dwellings at least five days prior to the proposed service disconnection. The notice shall be personally posted to at least one adult of each family unit. Individual dwelling units shall submit their part of any past dues and the utility company shall provide them with receipts. The payments shall be credited to the landlord’s account since they are responsible for the payment of utility services.
What to do if Disconnected in Error?
After understanding the reasons for utility disconnection, do you believe that you have been disconnected in error? If that’s the case then you should get in touch with your utility company as soon as possible. This will help you get the error corrected earlier.
If the utility company is unable to rectify the issue, file a complaint with the Public Utility Commission.
How to Reconnect your Utility Services?
Have you only received the disconnection notice or have the utility services already been shut off? In any of the cases, don’t fear. Take a deep breath and note the following steps that you can take to get your electricity service reconnected.
Make a Payment Immediately
If you have only received the notice of disconnection then immediately pay the utility bill – if possible. Call your provider’s customer service department and notify them. They will probably ask for the payment confirmation number. Once they confirm that your dues are clear – your work is done.
In case the disconnection has already proceeded, the service may get reconnected within minutes or two days of your payment.
Negotiate a Deferred Payment Plans
Can’t pay all charges in one go? Well, pick up the phone, dial the number and call your REP. Discuss the option of deferred payment plans. The company will probably hear you and make arrangements for comfortable payment plans.
Time of Reconnection
After you’ve disconnected from the utility company, it may take some minutes, several hours or up to 2 days of service reconnection provided that you have paid all of your charges. The charges include unpaid electric bills, disconnection and reconnection fees, and some additional deposits.
Always remember to note your confirmation number once you have submitted the amount. The company may call and ask for the confirmation number before it reconnects your service.
Prepaid Electricity Plan
Do you find it difficult to save some bucks for the end of the month to pay your electricity bill? Are you unable to keep your energy usage under control? The prepaid electricity plan might just be the perfect choice for you.
With the prepaid plan, you shall submit a deposit at the start of each month and shall only be able to use the equivalent amount of energy.
You may also subscribe for SMS and email alerts that will notify you about the remaining balance and keep you updated. Once you have used up your balance you may add funds to again start using prepaid electricity.
A Prepaid electricity plan leads to a lower overall consumption of electricity. Reconnection time usually spans over a few hours.
Actions to take with Illegal Disconnection
All US states have law firms that offer free legal advice on utility disconnection – you may have a chat with such organizations.
If you believe that your utility company has authorized an illegal disconnection then you are not helpless – you may take action. You should reach out to your REP to discuss if the disconnection was in error. If they acknowledge the mistake and rectify then great. Otherwise, involve the state organization such as the Public Utility Commission (PUC) and request them to settle the problem.
Buckle up for some sizzling answers to the frequently asked questions on service disconnection.
How long is food OK in fridge without power?
The food will remain ok for up to 4 hours in the refrigerator and up to 2 days in the full freezer if the doors are closed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Why did my power just go out?
There are several possible reasons. The whole locality around you may have been affected due to a power outage. Or the main circuit breaker in your house has tripped due to a short circuit or the heavy load. Or the utility has authorized a disconnection due to an emergency.
Can my electricity be cut off?
If you fail to pay your electricity bill by the due date, your provider may issue a disconnection notice. Though, the disconnection will not occur until 10 days have passed since the issuance of the notice. Your provider can also cut off your electric service, without notice, if there is a hazardous condition linked with the usage of electricity.
How do I know if I blew a fuse?
If power is down in your house or a certain part of your house, find the fuse box and carefully remove the fuse from its holder. Look through the transparent fuse glass and you will find a thin wire there. If there is a gap i.e., if the wire is broken, then you have a blown fuse that needs to be replaced.
Gas or electric service disconnection is surely something to save your house from. The good news is that you have undeniable rights, as a utility customer, that saves you from sudden and illegal disconnections. Even if you fail to submit your bill by the due date, your REP can not authorize immediate electricity cut-off. You may negotiate with your provider to enter into a deferred payment plan as well. You should also notify your electricity company about your energy assistance provider’s payment – if applicable.
In case you realize that the utility company is going against the rules or ignoring them, you can and should file a complaint with your state Public Utility Commission. Once you have an active complaint with the PUC, your utility can not cut off your service.
Be aware of scammers that threaten to disconnect your service and ask for immediate payment over the phone call.