Consumer Protection

The Public Utility Commission is required to enforce certain consumer protection rules. These rules protect consumers from mistreatment by electric, telecommunications and water service providers. They also help ensure that certain types of consumers do not go without electric, telephone, and water or wastewater service. The purpose of this page is to provide up-to-date information on those consumer protection rules.

Electricity Disconnect Protections

Critical Care

Critical Care status is only for consumers who need electricity, because they are on life support equipment. Once granted, this status is good for two years. A Critical Care consumer who is unable to pay their bill and is in danger of being disconnected must do the following to maintain service:

Have their doctor contact their retail electric provider (REP) both verbally and in writing to confirm the Critical Care status.

Enter into a deferred payment plan with the REP.

As long as the consumer has followed the instructions above, the REP will not disconnect their service for 63 days. At the end of the 63 days, the consumer must begin the process again if they are still unable to pay their bill. If a consumer does not pursue the 63-day protection and is going to be disconnected, the REP must send written (or email if agreed) notice of disconnection at least 21 days prior to the disconnection, to both the consumer and the consumer's secondary contact. The transmission and distribution utility (TDU) will also contact the consumer and their secondary contact by phone. If the TDU cannot reach the customer or secondary contact by phone, the TDU will visit the premises. If there is no one on the premises, the TDU will leave a door hanger.

*This designation does not relieve the consumer of their duty to pay their utility bill.

Chronic Condition

This type of status does not protect against disconnection for non-pay. Chronic Condition status is for the following consumers:

Consumers who have a serious medical condition and need electricity for air conditioning or heating to prevent them from becoming more ill.

Consumers that need electricity for medical equipment to prevent them from becoming more ill.

Chronic Condition status is good for 90 days. If a Chronic Condition consumer does not pay their electric bill, the customer's REP must send written (or email if agreed) notice of disconnection at least 21 days prior to the disconnection, to both the consumer and the consumer's secondary contact.

*This designation does not relieve the consumer of their duty to pay their utility bill.

Outage Preparedness for Customers with Medical Conditions

When the lights go out, there are many things to think about. As an electric consumer, you are always encouraged to report outages to your utility. In some cases, your utility may ask you to conserve energy to help prevent the need for rotating outages. If you have medical needs, you are are not expected to unplug your medical devices or turn off your air conditioner during conservation periods. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help conserve energy.

During periods when conservation is encouraged or requested, typically Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., everyone can help save energy by not running clothes washers and dryers, dishwashers, stoves, and other electrical devices.

Beyond that, all consumers should still be properly prepared for an outage. There are many factors involved in restoring electric service after outages. Restoration can take minutes, hours, days, or even weeks. All electric consumers should have a basic plan to follow when an outage occurs, but consumers with medical needs should take extra steps to make sure they are prepared.

If you have a medical condition, you may own special devices that run on electric power. These devices include life support equipment, such as respirators and ventilators. Other devices such as electric hospital beds, wheelchairs, oxygen regulators, and refrigerators for special medication may also be needed. Power restoration is based on the electrical grid, so when utilities begin restoring power to neighborhoods, they usually are not able to place priority on homes based on the age or medical condition of the residents; however, elderly consumers and consumers with medical needs should still let their utilities know about their condition. Most utilities keep a list of critical care and chronic condition consumers. Being on this list does not guarantee your power will be restored immediately, but emergency services workers can access this list to see who may need immediate attention. Because many outage situations involve a large number of homes and people, it may take an extended amount of time for utility or emergency services workers to get to your area. For this reason, you should always have a backup plan.

The following tips will help you prepare for a power outage:

Register with your utility or retail electric provider. Tell your utility or retail electric provider you would like to apply for critical care status or chronic condition status. If you are already on one of these lists, it is still important to check with your utility every six months to a year to make sure you are still on their list. Most utilities will send a renewal application to you.
arrow Create a contact list of family, friends, and neighbors you can call for help. This is especially important if you do not have a mode of transportation. You should also have an alternate location for shelter. If there is no one for you to stay with, try to arrange for transportation and shelter with a local church or community center.
If you require medical grade oxygen, make sure you have an emergency supply available at all times. Also make sure you have a battery-powered radio, a flashlight, and extra batteries in a place you can easily find them. Corded landline and cellular phones are the only types of phone that will work during a power outage. Cordless phones will not work until power is restored to your home.

Water and Wastewater Disconnect Protections

Ill Consumers

A utility may not suspend or disconnect service for nonpayment if the consumer establishes that some person residing at that residence will become seriously ill or more seriously ill if service is terminated. To avoid disconnection under these circumstances, the consumer must provide a written statement from a physician to the utility prior to the stated date of disconnection. Service may be disconnected if the next month’s bill and the past due bill are not paid by the due date of the next month’s bill, unless the customer enters into a deferred payment plan with the utility.

*This designation does not relieve the consumer of their duty to pay their utility bill.