The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) urged consumers with high or past-due balances on their utility bills to #CallUtilitiesNow to discuss options to help them remain connected to utility services before the annual winter termination moratorium ends on March 31st.
The PUC emphasized that direct conversations between customers and utilities are the best “first step” for any Pennsylvania household or business that is struggling, no matter the circumstance.
Between December 1st and March 31st, utilities governed by the PUC cannot shut off service to income-eligible households for non-payment of bills unless the utility receives permission from the PUC. This may include electric, natural gas or heat-related water service. There are exceptions to winter termination rules, including if the utility suspects fraud, tampering with meters or other public safety concerns.
As we approach the end of the annual winter termination moratorium, utilities are reaching out to customers who are at risk of utility shutoffs and sending bill reminders, letters, termination notices, PUC-approved shutoff forms, and making phone calls, or in-person visits. If a customer’s service is shut off, the utility must provide a notice indicating why the service was shut off and what steps the customer can take to restore their service.
The PUC noted that utilities cannot begin service shutoffs until Monday, April 3, 2023, because Pennsylvania’s regulations prohibit utility service terminations on Fridays and weekends.
The PUC emphasizes that the best action any consumer with a past-due bill can take right now is to call their public utility’s customer service hotline and ask for information about their customer assistance programs designed to make energy bills more affordable. Utilities understand the assistance programs available in their communities for income-qualified consumers – including utility-run Customer Assistance Programs (CAP), national programs like the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and various hardship fund programs operated by utilities and non-profit organizations.
Utilities also can help enroll consumers in assistance programs, guide them to other available resources and discuss new payment plan options to address overdue balances and help consumers move forward. Each major utility has a team of representatives trained to help consumers explore the many options that may be available and connect those families with the necessary resources. If a consumer is unable to resolve an issue or obtain needed information from the utility, they may contact the PUC’s Bureau of Consumer Services (BCS) toll free at 1-800-692-7380.
Additionally, the PUC notes that consumers may also contact Pennsylvania’s “211” system (Dial 211 or visit www.pa211.org) for information and resources in their communities to help with utilities, housing, food, employment and more. If, after calling the utility, consumers are not satisfied with the assistance provided, they can contact BCS. By law, consumers must contact their utility first to try to resolve their concern.