- Am I required to provide my social security number when applying for new service?
- What should I do if someone has fraudulently established service in my name?
- Can a utility refuse to provide service?
- When I apply for utility services, will I have to pay a deposit?
- If I must pay a deposit, how much will it be?
- If I must pay a deposit, do I have to pay it all at once?
- If a utility did not collect a deposit from me or has refunded my deposit and my payment history becomes poor, can I be required to pay a deposit?
- When will my deposit be returned to me?
1. Am I required to provide my social security number when applying for new service?
Utilities generally set forth the information required to apply for service in their tariffs. A utility may require information such as the legal name of the applicant and the date of birth in order to establish a customer’s identity. Some utilities may require a social security number, but many provide an alternative such as a driver’s license number.
2. 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 the police to make a report and your utility to request a fraud packet. You may have to demonstrate that the service was not provided to you. For assistance, contact the PUCN’s Consumer Complaint Resolution Division.
3. Can a utility refuse to provide service?
Yes. In general, an electric, gas or telecommunication utility may refuse to initiate service until a customer complies with the requirements outlined in the utility's tariffs to obtain service, including circumstances in which a customer is trying to obtain services via fraudulent means.
4. When I apply for utility services, will I have to pay a deposit?
Customers of electric, gas, and telephone utilities may be required to pay a deposit if they cannot establish credit by another method as defined in the tariffs for the particular type of utility. Electric, gas and telephone utility customers may establish credit by demonstrating that they have paid utility bills on time for the preceding twelve months. Certain customers who receive benefits from a retirement plan or from the Social Security Administration cannot be required to pay a deposit, unless the customer has had a termination of service
or has had four or more payments after the issuance of the next monthly bill
within a 12-month period. Customers who have no payment history or poor payment history may have to pay a deposit.
Water utilities are permitted by law to require a security deposit. Mobile home parks in which the landlords collect money from tenants to place in a tenant service charge account may collect a deposit equal to the amount that the utility collects to connect those customers.
Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (“ETCs”) that provide lifeline services may charge a service deposit depending on the circumstances.
5. If I must pay a deposit, how much will it be?
For electric and gas utilities, a deposit cannot exceed one and a half times the estimated average monthly bill of the residence. This is normally based on the historical usage at the residence. For example, if the previous tenant of an apartment used $100 worth of electricity a month, the new tenant’s deposit cannot exceed $150.
In general, a telephone utility may charge up to twice the average estimated monthly bill for service or $100, whichever is less.
Senior citizens who are required to pay deposits may be eligible to pay half of the deposit normally required.
6. If I must pay a deposit, do I have to pay it all at once?
Not necessarily. An electric or gas utility must permit payment of the deposit in installments. A telephone utility may allow deposits and/or connection fees to be paid in installments if certain requirements are met.
A water utility or landlord of a mobile home park who provides water service may provide for a security deposit to be paid in installments. The rules for water utilities are generally set forth in their tariffs, and vary from utility to utility.
Note that utilities may charge interest on the unpaid portion of the deposit.
7. If a utility did not collect a deposit from me or has refunded my deposit and my payment history becomes poor, can I be required to pay a deposit?
Yes. An electric or gas utility customer who has had more than three late payments in 12 consecutive months, or who has had service shut off, can be required to pay a deposit to guarantee future payments. A telephone utility customer can be required to pay a deposit after termination of service because of a delinquent bill, payment of a delinquent bill in installments, or after having had two or more checks dishonored. Water utilities generally have rules in their tariffs regarding when a security deposit may be required.
8. When will my deposit be returned to me?
Electric, gas and telephone utilities are required to refund the deposit promptly upon termination of service. In general, a deposit may be refunded or credited to a customer’s account. When service is terminated at the request of the customer, the deposit may also be used to pay off any outstanding balance on the account.
Electric, gas and telephone utilities may hold a deposit indefinitely until a customer makes timely payments for 12 consecutive months or otherwise establishes satisfactory credit. Upon establishment of satisfactory credit, the deposit must be refunded. It may take one or two billing cycles after a customer qualifies for the refund of a deposit for the refund to be applied to the account.
All utilities regulated by the PUCN are required to return any deposits they collect with interest when the refund of the deposit is due. Mobile home park landlords also must return to tenants and former tenants any utility deposits or refunds owed to them including any interest owed to the customer by the utility.
A deposit and any applicable interest may be applied to the new account of a customer who moves to a new address within the same utility’s service area.