CONSUMER COMPLAINT PROCEDURES

If You Have a Problem with Utility Service or Rates

STEP 1 - CONTACT YOUR UTILITY

If you believe you are not receiving safe, adequate utility service at correct rates, take the matter up directly with the company that provides the services.

You should tell the company what your problem is and provide all necessary facts. Your complaint will be handled more quickly if you give the utility company a complete explanation of your complaint. The utility company should investigate your complaint and tell you what action it will take.

If you do not hear from the company within a reasonable time, or if you are not satisfied with the company's action, you may file an informal request for assistance by writing or calling the Public Service Commission in Charleston. The Commission has Consumer Affairs technicians that are trained to help you with utility problems.

STEP 2 - INFORMAL REQUEST TO THE PSC FOR ASSISTANCE

The informal request for assistance should be the first step taken in our complaint process. Most of the requests for assistance the PSC receives are resolved in an informal manner through discussions involving the customer, the company, and PSC staff. We have Consumer Affairs Technicians that are readily available to handle your requests for assistance. Should these efforts not be satisfactory, our staff can provide you with information on how to obtain further review of your PSC complaint, through the formal process below.

Which Utilities are Regulated by the Commission?

The PSC has the responsibility for regulation of the rates and services of electric, telephone, natural gas, water, wastewater and solid waste disposal utilities. In addition, some motor carrier operations remain under the jurisdiction of the Commission.

The Commission does not have authority to initially set the rates established by municipal utilities or cooperatives. It does have limited jurisdiction, upon a timely petition following a rate action, to review the rates of municipal utilities and cooperatives. However, a petition asking for Commission review of municipal and coop rates must be filed within 30 days of the rate action by the utility's governing body and it must either be signed by 25% of the utility's customers or present evidence of discrimination customers seeking Commission review.

In addition to rate and service territory jurisdiction, the Commission also establishes service standards which regulated utilities must meet.

The PSC's Consumer Affairs Technicians Can Help You.

Consumer Technicians receive about 10,000 calls a year. Here are some examples of types of problems that PSC Consumer Technicians may be able to help you with:

  • improper termination of your utility service
  • charges on your utility bill that you believe are incorrect or unauthorized
  • problems with reading your meter
  • customer deposits for utility services
  • poor quality of service
  • high bill complaints
  • problems with delaying connection of service
  • problems with back billing

Filing Your Request for Assistance with the Commission.

You may submit your request for assistance by telephone or letter. You do not need an attorney to file your complaint.
You can save time for yourself and the PSC staff by providing complete information about your problem. Before your problem can be investigated, the staff needs the following information:

  • Your name, mailing address, city, county, zip code and telephone number,
    including area code
  • Your physical address, if different from your mailing address
  • Your utility account number or work order number
  • The name of the utility and company personnel you have talked with
  • The complete facts of your complaint
  • The action the utility took on your complaint
  • A brief explanation of the solution desired
  • Please be sure to indicate the following:
    if the customer or a member of the household is 65 years of age or older, if your complaint involves a termination of service or initiation of new service.

Action on Your Complaint:

Our Consumer Affairs Technicians will review your request for assistance and discuss the problem with you. Though the PSC cannot resolve every problem to the customer's satisfaction, it does act promptly on your requests for assistance and makes every effort to see that they are handled fairly.

Most of the requests for assistance the PSC receives are resolved in an informal manner through discussions involving the customer, the company, and the PSC staff. However, if these efforts are not satisfactory, the staff can provide you with information on how to obtain further review of your PSC complaint.

The toll-free number is 1-800-642-8544.
A customer service representative will be glad to help you.

Or file a Request for Assistance electronically,

Or write to:

Public Service Commission of WV
c/o Customer Assistance
201 Brooks Street
PO Box 812
Charleston, WV 25323
     


STEP 3 - INSTRUCTIONS FOR FILING FORM 1 - FORMAL COMPLAINTS

The instructions provided on this page are intended to provide general instruction only. The Commission's Rules of Practice and Procedure, 150 CSR1, contain specific provisions relating to formal complaints. Please refer to these for a more specific detail of rights and responsibilities.

Any person, firm, association of person or entity may complain to the Commission substantially in the form hereinafter prescribed (See Form No. 1) of anything done or omitted to be done by any public utility in violation of any of the provisions of the Public Service Commission Law of West Virginia.

Two or more complainants may join in one complaint if their respective causes of action are against the same defendant or defendants and involve substantially the same violation of law and a statement of facts. When any defendant is operated by a receiver or trustee, both the utility and its receiver or trustee must be made defendants.

The names of all parties, complainant and defendant, must be printed and stated in full without abbreviation, and the address and phone number of each complainant must be given. If the complainant is represented by an attorney, the attorney's name and address must be given.

Formal Complaints should be written to fully and completely advise the defendant or defendants and the Commission wherein the provisions of the law have been, are, or will be violated. Each distinct charge should be stated concisely in a separate paragraph.

The complaint should state specifically the relief sought. If the complainant is also seeking emergency or interim relief, this should be clearly stated. The complaint must explain the need for interim relief and specify the interim relief sought, for example, that service be restored while the complaint is pending. The complaint must allege extraordinary facts of immediate and irreparable injury or public interest as would justify the Commission granting interim relief.

Please remember to do the following when filling out a FORMAL COMPLAINT FORM:

    •Type or use black ink.

    • Additional information may be submitted on 8 1/2 X 11 paper
      attached to the complaint.

    • Please do NOT write on the back of the form OR on back of
      attached sheets.

    • The Formal Complaint Form 1 MUST BE SIGNED by each CUSTOMER

    • EACH CUSTOMER SIGNATURE MUST be NOTARIZED BY A
      NOTARY PUBLIC to be processed.


CLICK HERE to Download a copy of FORM 1 - Formal Complaint Form.

Mail Form 1 to the attention of :

Ingrid Ferrell, Executive Secretary
Public Service Commission of West Virginia
201 Brooks Street, P.O. Box 812
Charleston, West Virginia 25323

or

Fax to 304-340-0325. All faxed forms require follow-up of the
hard copy by mail to the address above.


WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE PSC RECEIVES YOUR FORM 1?

When a Formal Complaint is filed in the Secretary's Office, it is then assigned a case number and placed on the Commission's docket of active cases. A copy of the complaint is served upon the defendant(s), together with a copy of the Commission's order requiring the defendant(s) to satisfy the said complaint, file a written answer,  or request mediation (mediation is offered to billing dispute cases only) in writing to the complaint within 10 days from the date it is received by the defendants.

The complainant will be sent a letter acknowledging receipt by the Commission and stating the case number assigned to the formal complaint. It is important to have the case number ready if you call the Commission regarding the formal complaint. The complainant is also sent a "Notice to Complainants" form that explains responsibilities and procedures.

Beginning October 1, 2007, the Commission began a pilot mediation process that is only offered to cases that involve billing disputes. A description of the mediation process and a form to request mediation are enclosed with acknowledgement letters.

DEFENDANT'S ANSWER

Within ten (10) days from the date of service of the complaint and order described above, the defendant(s) complained against shall file a typewritten answer or answers, duly verified (duly verified means that you confirm that the statements contained in your answer are true), or request mediation (mediation is offered to only billing dispute cases) in writing.  This period may be shortened or extended by the Commission when it deems advisable.

The original answer and twelve (12) copies thereof must be filed with Ingrid Ferrell, the Executive Secretary of the Commission, and, at the same time, a copy of said answer shall be served by the defendant(s) upon each complainant or their attorney. The defendant(s) shall certify to the Secretary that said service has been made. Attorneys must provide their WV State Bar ID number on all pleadings.

An answer(s) should fully and completely advise the parties and the Commission of the nature of the defense, and should admit or deny specifically and in detail each material allegation of the complaint being answered.

If a defendant satisfies a Formal Complaint, either before or after answering, a statement to the effect signed by the complainant and defendant must be filed setting forth when and how the complaint has been satisfied. The proceeding may then be dismissed by Commission order.

PROCESSING FORMAL COMPLAINTS

The formal complaint process is different from the informal because it involves a legal proceeding before the Commission. This means that you and the utility must present facts on issues raised in your complaint to the Commission. However, this should not discourage you from filing a complaint. It is extremely important that you read and respond to all letters, orders or filings received from the Executive Secretary’s Office of the Public Service Commission.

Individuals or companies may file formal complaints. Individuals do not need a lawyer to file a formal complaint. However, companies must be represented by an attorney.  Complaints may be retained by the three member Commission, however most are referred to the Administrative Law Judge Division for processing. Upon the filing of a formal complaint, a Staff Attorney and members of the Commission’s Technical Staff are assigned to investigate all complaints and present an independent recommendation to the Commission. Many matters are resolved based upon the filings of the participants (the complainant and the utility) to the complaint. However, some complaint cases require a hearing where evidence from all participants, including Staff, is presented. When an Administrative Law Judge issues a Recommended Decision the parties have a right to challenge that decision by submitting written exceptions to the Commission within fifteen (15) days. The Commission enters Final Orders in all matters.

 

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