• Consumer Affairs Branch

    Frequently Asked Questions

    • What should I do if someone has fraudulently established service in my name?
      If you believe that someone has used your personal information to establish service, contact your utility company immediately.  In addition, file a report with your local police department.  If you believe you are being held responsible for utility bill charges established fraudulently under your name, and can provide proof of residence elsewhere, contact the CPUC Consumer Affairs Branch (CAB) to submit a complaint.  You can find more information on how to file a complaint at the CaliforniaCares Utility Complaints Portal  http://consumers.cpuc.ca.gov/californiacares/.
    • Can a utility refuse to provide service?
      Yes.  In general, a utility provider may refuse to initiate service if the requesting customer cannot comply with the requirements outlined in the utility’s tariffs or rules.  Utility tariffs and rules are authorized by the CPUC.  If you are unable to resolve this issue with your utility, you may contact the CPUC Consumer Affairs Branch (CAB) at 800-649-7570.
    • When I apply for utility services, will I have to pay a deposit?  
      In certain cases, you may be required to pay a deposit to establish or re-establish utility service.  The utility provider may require you to pay a deposit if you cannot establish credit by another method such as a letter from someone who agrees to pay your bill if you do not.  This is called a letter of guarantee.  In addition, utility customers may establish credit by demonstrating that they have paid utility bills on time for the preceding twelve months.  For electric and gas utilities, the deposit cannot exceed two times the average monthly bill for residential service.
    • In what situations may a utility terminate my service?

      Utilities may terminate service without notice in certain limited situations.  For example, unsafe or hazardous conditions, cases of fraud, or in the abandonment of a service location.  In general, the utilities may terminate service, after providing notice to the occupant, for failure to pay a delinquent bill or provide a security deposit, or for violating a rule applicable to the utility service.  Most utilities consider a bill to be delinquent if not paid within 19 days after the bill is mailed / presented to the customer.

      Telecommunications utilities must continue to provide access to call 911 and a number to contact the utility when they shut off basic service temporarily due to nonpayment.  A telecommunications utility may block calling features (like caller ID or voicemail) for delinquent telephone service charges, before disconnecting dial tone.  Blocking of these features is not regulated by the CPUC.  The telephone company is not required to give notice prior to the actual blocking of the feature.

    • What can I do about a rude, abusive and unprofessional utility representative or employee?
      The CPUC does not directly regulate utility employee's conduct.  Utility employee conduct is governed by the utility.  However, you may contact the CPUC Consumer Affairs Branch (CAB) at 800-649-7570 and request to speak to the executive offices of the utility to report the incident.  Be prepared to provide details of the contact, including the employee’s name or ID number.
    • How much notice does the utility have to give me before my service is disconnected?

      Before a utility disconnects service, the company must provide a 15-day written notice explaining: the reason for the disconnection, the amount which must be paid in order to avoid disconnection and the earliest date you will be disconnected if you fail to pay the amount owed.  If not paid after the first notice, the utility must provide a second notice at least 48 hours prior to the disconnection and will make a final attempt to call just prior to disconnection. 

      Telecommunications utilities are required to give you a disconnection notice at least five days before disconnecting your service.  However, they must continue to provide access to call 911 and access to a contact number at the utility.

    • Can my utility service be shut off on a weekend or holiday?
      Utilities may not disconnect or terminate service on the weekend or on a legal holiday, unless there is a safety issue that requires the service to be disconnected.
    • Is my utility authorized to estimate what I owe if it is unable to read my meter?

      If, due to circumstances beyond its control, a utility is unable to read your meter, your usage can be estimated.  Reasons for estimating a bill may include severe weather, a locked gate, or blocked access due to a pet.  Generally, when a utility estimates a bill it uses the consumption for the same period the previous year, with some modifications.  The estimated bill is corrected when the utility is able to read the meter.  Generally, if bills are estimated for more than three consecutive months the utility will notify the customer that it needs to access the meter.   

      Customers that opt out of a Smart Meter may have their meters read on alternating months.  In addition, when regular, accurate meter readings are not available or the consumer has opted-out of the Smart Meter program, the utility may estimate the consumer’s energy usage for billing purposes based on historical use and available meter readings.

    • I have a charge on my telephone bill that I didn’t authorize. Do I have to pay the charges? Why can’t my local telephone company block the charges?

      It is important that consumers review their telephone bills carefully to identify any unauthorized charges.  If you did not order the product or service in question, contact the company whose service/product you are being billed for and request a refund.  You may also contact your utility provider and request that the charges be refunded.  Your telephone company can also assist you with blocking unwanted calls and charges from those companies that have placed those unauthorized charges on your bill.

      You do not have to pay for products or services you did not authorize; but you must pay all the non-disputed charges on your bill while your issue is under review by the utility company or the CPUC.  Withholding the payment of the undisputed amount of your bill can lead to the  possible disconnection of telephone service. 

      If you are unable to resolve the issue with the billing company or your local telephone company, you should contact the CPUC Consumer Affairs Branch (CAB) to submit a complaint.  You can find more information on how to file a complaint at the CaliforniaCares Utility Complaints Portal http://consumers.cpuc.ca.gov/californiacares/

    • I discontinued my service and was charged an Early Termination Fees. How do I dispute the charge?
      If Early Termination Fees are assessed by your Wireless Carrier for discontinuing service, depending upon the “terms and conditions” of your contract, we may be able to assist if there are compelling reasons why the service was terminated.  We can also assist Wireline business consumers who feel they have been unfairly assessed contractual Early Termination Fees.  You may contact the CPUC Consumer Affairs Branch (CAB) to submit a complaint.  You can find more information on how to file a complaint at the CaliforniaCares Utility Complaints Portal http://consumers.cpuc.ca.gov/californiacares/.
    • My telephone service was switched without my authorization. What should I do to get my old carrier back?
      When a company switches your telephone service without your authorization whether local or long distance, it is called slamming.  Slamming is a violation of state and federal law.  Contact your old telephone utility and advise them of this unauthorized switch.  They must work with the company you were switched to and switch you back.  If you are not switched back, you should contact the CPUC Consumer Affairs Branch (CAB) to submit a complaint.  We can assist you with any unauthorized fees and make certain your service is returned to your carrier of choice.  Your complaint will assist the CPUC in investigating the offending Carrier.  You can find more information on how to file a complaint at the CaliforniaCares Utility Complaints Portal http://consumers.cpuc.ca.gov/californiacares/
    • Who is responsible for the wiring and phone jacks inside my residence?
      You are responsible for the inside wiring and phone jacks in your residence.  The utility is responsible for any equipment from a point called a Network Interface Device that is usually on the outside of your residence.  Residential landlords are responsible for installing at least one usable phone jack in each unit, and placing and maintaining standard phone wiring inside their rental units.  If you have a problem and are not a tenant in a rental situation, you may do the repair work yourself, hire a vendor, or have your utility company send a technician for a fee.
    • My Cable/Internet Bill is wrong/Service is not working. MY U-verse, or FiOS bill is wrong/Service is not working.

      The CPUC does not have jurisdiction over all technologies offered by privately owned utilities.  This includes video (cable TV) and Internet services, including subscriptions, billing, and equipment.  If you are not able to resolve your issue with the company directly, for cable TV services please contact your local city government for assistance.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us may offer additional assistance for disputes about cable TV and Internet services. 

      However, if you have a question or complaint about your Internet provided phone service (also known as Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP), that is marketed under such brand names as U-verse or FiOS, we will attempt to assist you.  While the CPUC has limited jurisdiction over VoIP services you may contact the CPUC Consumer Affairs Branch (CAB) to submit a complaint in writing with a detailed explanation of your problem with the VoIP service provider.  You can find more information on how to file a complaint at the CaliforniaCares Utility Complaints Portal http://consumers.cpuc.ca.gov/californiacares/