Is your electricity or gas going to be shut off?
Step 1: Call your utility company. PG&E, SDG&E, SoCal Gas and SoCal Edison can offer customers in danger of shut off a payment plan that will allow them to continue receiving service while paying off their outstanding balance. IMPORTANT: It is your responsibility as a customer to contact the utility to request payment arrangements. The utility will usually offer a minimum of three months, but can extend payments for a longer period of time.
Step 2: Make sure you are receiving any rate discounts or other assistance you are eligible for. For example, if you are a CARE, FERA, or medical baseline customer.
Step 3: Low-income customers are eligible for financial assistance programs to help pay their bill. Call the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LI-HEAP) at 1-866-675-6623. Ask your utility for information about other low-income programs they may offer.
Step 4: Don’t agree to a payment plan you can’t afford! When you agree to a payment plan and if you cannot not stick to it, you will have to pay the entire amount past due. If you cannot pay the total amount after 48 hours notice, either by phone or in writing, you may lose service.
If there is a change in circumstances (job loss, illness, etc.), call your utility company immediately. You may be able to ask for a revised plan.
Step 5: File a complaint: If you have difficulty reaching an agreement with your utility, contact the CPUC at 1.800.649.7570 or file a complaint through the TURN website. Once you have filed a complaint with the CPUC, your utility has up to 21 days to respond. If your shut off is scheduled to occur sooner call the CPUC hotline.
The utilities may require any residential customers including California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) or Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA) customers, to pay a re-establishment of credit deposit after being disconnected for non-payment. The deposit is calculated at twice the average monthly bill.
In addition, the utilities may require a residential customer who is not on CARE or FERA to pay a re-establishment of credit deposit for late payments.
Payment Plans For PG&E, SCE and SDG&E CARE/FERA customers
For deposits equal to or less than $150, CARE/FERA customers should be offered up to three months to pay.
For deposits greater than $150, CARE/FERA customers should be offered up to six months to pay.
Step 6: Contact your utility company; if you are having trouble making payments and try to negotiate a new payment plan. Not calling your utility company to tell them that you will be late on making a payment or sticking to a payment plan will trigger a 48-hour shut off notice.
The most common reason utility service gets shut off is nonpayment. However, even in cases of nonpayment, there are certain requirements and limits a utility must follow before disconnecting a customer.
- Your power cannot be shut off for nonpayment on Saturdays, Sundays, legal holidays other days when the utility’s public offices are closed.
- Medical baseline or life support customers will not be disconnected without an in-person visit from a utility representative.
- You must be notified before your power is shut-off.
- PG&E, SCE, SoCalGas and SDG&E customers are entitled to a 15-day notice (which usually appears in your bill, followed by a 48-hour notice and the utility must attempt to contact the customer by phone or in person.
- You should also receive an explanation for the proposed shut-off and the options you have to prevent the shut off, such as payment arrangements and appeals to your utility or the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
Avoiding A Shut Off During a Billing Dispute
If you do not follow the correct procedures while disputing a bill, it can result in a shut-off.
If you think your bill is wrong you should first try to negotiate with the utility by requesting to speak with a manager or supervisor.
- Do you have late or missed payments?
- Do you think you have been overcharged?
- Do you think you have been back billed?
- Is your utility asking you to pay someone else’s bill?
- Has your bill been estimated?
If that fails, you should file a complaint with the CPUC immediately. Don’t wait for a shut off notice to contact the CPUC if you want to dispute your bill. Protect yourself by notifying your utility as soon as possible of your intent to dispute your bill and your reasons for doing so. You should also make sure that any bills you receive after the disputed one are paid in full (minus any disputed amount) and on time.
File a CPUC complaint
Before you file your complaint with the California Public Utilities Commission, make sure that you:
- Call the Company first.
- If you need a translator, ask for one!
- Ask to speak to a Customer Service Representative
- Have a copy of your bill!
- If you have someone call for you, you need to be there.
- If the customer services representative is not able to help you, ask to speak to a supervisor.
- If you are able to get a name, write down the name of the person you talk to and take notes!
- Scan a copy of your bill or other documents and attach it to your online complaint.
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