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A utility may require a minimum cash deposit or other guarantee from an applicant or customer to secure payment of bills for new accounts. Residential customer deposits are based on the average monthly bill for that location or one-twelfth of the annual estimated total billed amount. Non-residential customer deposits are one-sixth of the annual estimated total billed amount.
Some utilities will allow you to pay a deposit in installments, others will not.
A security deposit is refunded, plus accrued interest, after a customer has paid bills for service for 12 consecutive months without a delinquency or, at the utility’s discretion, after shorter periods. It will also be refunded or credited to accounts that are disconnected sooner than 12 months.
No. As long as the customer of record (the person whose name the service was in) no longer lives at the address where the balance was incurred, you cannot be held responsible for a prior customer’s bill. In the event the past customer of record is still in the home, a third party may be eligible for service if that person did not reside in the household during the time the debt was in incurred in the past customer’s name, but later moved in.
There are a number of agencies throughout the state that may be able to assist customers with their utility bills. The statewide West Virginia 2-1-1 service is a good source of information on available resources. It can be reached by dialing 211 or at http://www.wv211.org/.
Assistance may also be available through LIEAP and DollarEnergy. In order to find out if you qualify for either of these resources, contact your county office of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHR).
You can make utility payments by mail, at the utility’s office, by telephone or online if your utility offers that option. Utilities may have a designated location where you can make payments in person. There may be a fee assessed by these locations for conducting this transaction, and payments may not be credited immediately. Contact your utility for more information about approved payment options and locations.
There are various factors that can cause gas bills to increase substantially from one billing period to the next, including weather temperature, number of days in a billing period and whether your bill is estimated or the meter is read. Other factors that can cause gas bills to increase are leaks or malfunctioning gas-powered appliances such as water heaters and furnaces. If you have a concern, please contact your utility.
The gas utility can estimate or prorate a bill if the utility is unable to read the meter, due to lack of access to the meter, unusual conditions, holidays, weekends or if the utility includes estimates as part of its reading schedule.
As a courtesy, some utilities provide their customers the option to extend their due date. Contact your utility for more information.
The purpose of the customer charge is to allow the utility to fairly recover the costs it incurs to be ready and available to serve the customer, whether or not a customer actually consumes any of the utility’s product in a given month. These costs are spread across the customer base. They can include investments in meters and service lines, meter reading, billing and collecting.
Not necessarily. The utility decides the location of the meter and, in the case of main line taps, the meter is to be located close to the main.
Most customers are generally responsible for their service line up to the edge of the right-of-way in which the utility main is located. Contact your utility for specific information as it applies to your area.
The Public Service Commission does not have the authority to award damages. Any request for compensation should go through magistrate or, possibly, the circuit court system or your insurance company. However, a complaint may be filed to determine whether a utility has engaged in an unreasonable practice that resulted in the damage in question.
You should first attempt to work directly with the utility before a complaint can be filed with the Public Service Commission. If the utility is unwilling to allow you to set up a Deferred Payment Plan (DPP), that is acceptable to both parties, you may contact the Commission for assistance. The termination is placed on hold during the investigation process, but the customer must be able to demonstrate an ability to pay and must make a reasonable DPP offer. Depending on how long your appeal process lasts, you must be able to timely pay any current, undisputed bills that become due during this process, and your appeal to the Commission should be filed prior to the date of termination.
A utility may terminate service without notice when a condition arises that may be hazardous to life or property. If a utility terminates service without notice, the utility must keep a record of the conditions causing termination, and should make a reasonable effort to notify the customer before termination occurs.
If a bill is delinquent by 10 days or more, a utility must provide the customer written notice and personal contact prior to a scheduled termination. The written notice must be issued at least 10 days prior to a scheduled termination. The personal contact shall be at least 24 hours prior to a scheduled termination.
For customers who are already on a payment arrangement who fail to keep their bill payments current, a five-day mailed notice, but no personal contact, is required prior to service disconnection.
Service should not be discontinued if a residential customer is known to be 65 years old or older or is physically, mentally or emotionally incapacitated, without first making contact with a designated relative or a responsible third party. The customer should provide this third party contact to the company.
Written certification from a licensed physician verifying that termination of service would be especially dangerous must be received by the utility within 10 days after the utility informs the customer about termination and must be renewed every 30 days, starting from the date the certification is sent to the utility. However, the certification need not be renewed if a licensed physician can state to a reasonable certainty that the condition is permanent. This process does not prohibit termination, but allows extra protection for those who need it. The customer must still be willing and able to pay on the account.
If your service is disconnected for non-payment, contact the utility to determine the cost to re-activate your service. Disconnected customers may face a reconnect charge and a deposit, in addition to payment of the past due amount. You may request to negotiate a payment plan with the utility for reconnection; however, the utility may require full payment of arrears owed plus applicable fees up front. If you are able to offer a substantial payment towards your account balance, but the company refuses to negotiate and restore for less than full payment, you may file an informal or a formal complaint with the Commission to attempt to negotiate restoration.
If you have a problem with a regulated utility, contact the utility first and try to resolve the complaint before contacting the Public Service Commission. If the utility doesn’t resolve the issue to your satisfaction you may file a complaint in several ways:
If you have an issue that you cannot resolve directly with your utility company, you may contact the Public Service Commission to request assistance via one of the above mentioned methods. In most instances, it is preferred that a complaint be initiated via the informal process; it can then be determined whether the complaint should be taken to the formal level. An informal complaint, also known as a Request for Assistance (RFA), can be filed online, by telephone, by writing a letter or by visiting our office. All cable complaints must be initiated through the informal process. Consumer complaint procedures can be found at: http://www.psc.state.wv.us/complaints/default.htm.
Upon receipt of the complaint, a Consumer Affairs Technician will contact the utility in question and attempt to resolve the complaint. Once a response is received, our staff will provide this information to you by telephone and/or letter. If the complaint is filed online, a response may be provided by email. Depending on the complaint, this process may take anywhere from a few days to more than 30 days.
In order to file a Formal Complaint, fill out a Form 1 and have it notarized. The form can be faxed or mailed to you upon request or you may access it online at: http://www.psc.state.wv.us/Forms/InteractiveForm1_20161117.pdf
If you experience an emergency relating to your natural gas service and are unable to contact anyone with the utility, contact 911 emergency services.
The signs of a natural gas leak include dirt or dust blowing in the air; water or mud bubbling; fire coming from the ground or appearing to hover above the ground; dead or dying vegetation in an otherwise green area; a roaring, blowing or hissing sound; or the odor of rotten eggs. If you witness any of these, you should immediately contact the natural gas utility at the emergency number and call 911.
Electric, gas, water and sewer utilities have protected service areas and are not currently open to competition in the State of West Virginia.