- Utility bills are sometimes confusing. What if I have trouble understanding my bills?
- How often will I receive my utility bills and what information will they include?
- When is my bill due and when is it past due?
- If a bill becomes past due, will a late fee apply?
- Do utilities offer payment plans for past due amounts?
- Is there financial aid available if I am injured or very ill and am not able to pay my utility bills?
- Do utilities offer equal payment plans to help level out seasonal fluctuations in bills?
- How can I better manage my use of electricity and natural gas to lower my bills?
- Is my utility authorized to estimate what I owe if it is unable to read my meter?
- What is the basic service charge that appears on my monthly bills from electric and gas utilities?
- Who is responsible for paying utility bills?
- What should I do if I think there is something wrong with my gas, water or electric utility meter?
- What should I do if I think I have been billed incorrectly?
- If a utility determines that my meter was not correctly recording my usage for a period of time, can the utility bill me for usage that was not included in past bills that I have already paid?
- Why is my local telephone utility permitted to include charges from other companies on my local telephone bill?
- I have charges on my telephone bill that I never authorized. What should I do?
- Why can’t my local telephone company just block unauthorized charges from appearing on my bill?
1. Utility bills are sometimes confusing. What if I have trouble understanding my bills?
Utilities strive to make their bills understandable, although each utility’s bill format is different. For help understanding a bill, contact the utility company for assistance or contact the PUCN's Consumer Complaint Resolution Division.
2. How often will I receive my utility bills and what information will they include?
Generally, meters are read monthly for electric, natural gas and water services, and monthly bills are generated for phone services. Bills generally must include the date on which the current bill becomes delinquent.
The meter readings for gas, electric and water services are used to determine usage for the billing period. For electric, natural gas and water service, bills must generally show the meter readings at the beginning and end of the billing period, the date of the meter readings, the amount of electricity, gas or water used, and any other information used to compute the bill. Sometimes an estimated bill will be sent to a customer if circumstances prevent the company from reading a utility meter. Any estimated reading will be clearly noted on the bill and will be adjusted the next time the meter is able to be read.
For telephone service, bills must include the amount due, first and last days of the billing period, and any other information used to compute the bill.
3. When is my bill due and when is it past due?
Electric, gas and telephone utility bills delivered by USPS first-class mail are generally due upon receipt. Bills delivered via email are due when sent. Bills delivered by any other method are due upon receipt. Electric, gas and telephone utility bills cannot become past due earlier than 15 days after they are issued by the company. Many water utilities provide in their PUCN-approved tariffs that bills are past due 15 days after issuance.
For questions about when a bill is due, first check the bill, then contact the utility’s customer service department. Electric, gas and telephone utilities must provide contact numbers on their bills. If you still have questions or concerns after speaking with the utility, contact the PUCN’s Consumer Complaint Resolution Division.
4. If a bill becomes past due, will a late fee apply?
Utilities may charge a late-payment fee on a monthly basis for bills that are past due. Late fees are set forth in a utility’s tariff, which is approved by the PUCN.
5. Do utilities offer payment plans for past due amounts?
A customer who falls behind on a utility bill may avoid disconnection of service by agreeing to pay the overdue balance in monthly installments. If the customer fails to make a payment as specified in the agreement, the utility must give notice before terminating service.
Telephone utilities must offer at least one such payment arrangement per year.
6. Is there financial aid available if I am injured or very ill and am not able to pay my utility bills?
Many programs are available to help customers receive or continue receiving utility service. Information on federal programs, such as the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program for gas and electricity customers, the Lifeline program for low income customers to receive reduced rates on certain telephone services, and Link-Up America for installation of telephone service (available only on tribal land), are available through your utility. Gas and electric utilities must have programs for the payment of bills for customers experiencing financial hardship. Gas, electric, telephone and water utilities must offer payment plans to customers in need of financial assistance, and in certain circumstances (such as extreme heat), they must postpone termination of their services and/or provide special notice of termination of services.
In addition, counties and community action agencies also may offer various kinds of assistance. You can find out about what is available in your area by contacting the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services or by calling 211. Or visit the PUCN's Low Income & Other Consumer Assistance web page.
7. Do utilities offer equal payment plans to help level out seasonal fluctuations in bills?
Electric and gas utilities must make equal-payment plans available to residential customers. A customer may enter into a 12 month equal payment plan at any time during the year. The utility will divide the total amount of estimated bills for 1 year into 12 equal monthly payments. This kind of payment option can help those on fixed incomes pay equal amounts through the summer and winter and avoid high winter heating bills, high summer cooling bills or other seasonal fluctuations. A utility may be permitted to adjust the amount due under a payment plan to reflect increases or decreases in rates approved by the PUCN.
In addition to the 12-month plan, electric and gas utilities may offer other plans better suited to the situations of individual customers. For questions about special payment plans, contact the utilities directly.
8. How can I better manage my use of electricity and natural gas to lower my bills?
There are many ways to reduce residential energy use. Check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s brochure Energy Savers at http://energy.gov/energysaver/energy-saver and the PUCN's Save Money web page. Tips include making sure homes are well insulated, setting the water heater to heat water to a slightly lower temperature, and using a programmable thermostat. Although some appliances require energy all the time, like refrigerators, residential homeowners can conserve energy by unplugging many other types of devices when they are not in use.
9. 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 a dog in the yard. Generally speaking, 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 three months in a row the utility will notify the customer that it needs to access the meter.
10. What is the basic service charge that appears on my monthly bills from electric and gas utilities?
The basic service charge (also referred to as the “customer charge” in regulation) is the base charge for making service continuously available to a residence, whether or not the customer has used any of the applicable commodity. It covers costs such as distribution facilities, processing accounts, meter reading and billing. The charge will appear on the monthly bill even if you use no service during the billing period.
11. Who is responsible for paying utility bills?
In general, most utilities’ tariffs indicate that the person responsible for paying the bill is the person who receives or applies to receive service from the company. Utilities may refer to this person as the applicant for service, or the customer.
For questions about the effect of lease provisions or community property law, consumers should seek legal counsel.
Mobile home park customers are not responsible for the costs of utility service provided to common areas of mobile home parks such as laundry rooms, lighting for common areas, and sprinkler systems.
12. What should I do if I think there is something wrong with my gas, water or electric utility meter?
You have a right to request that a gas, electric or water company test your meter if you feel it does not accurately reflect your usage. There is no charge for the first meter test in any 12-month period. The utility company may charge you a fee for any subsequent meter tests you request during the same 12-month period.
13. What should I do if I think I have been billed incorrectly?
Contact the utility. Electric, natural gas, and water utilities are obligated to thoroughly investigate the matter and report the results to you. If you are unsatisfied with the utility’s determination you may file an oral complaint with the PUCN’s Consumer Complaint Resolution Division. The utility must inform you of your right to file such a complaint.
If a telephone utility is billing you at a rate higher than you were quoted by a salesperson, call the utility and ask why the bill reflects a higher rate than you were quoted. If this was not a billing error, and you feel that you were misled about the rate to get you to purchase the service, you may file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office regarding false, misleading and deceptive charges.
14. If a utility determines that my meter was not correctly recording my usage for a period of time, can the utility bill me for usage that was not included in past bills that I have already paid?
Yes, in certain situations. Where an electric or gas utility discovers that a meter is inaccurate by more than 2 percent, the utility may adjust a customer’s bill within certain restrictions and depending on whether there is evidence of tampering or use of services without authorization. In the absence of tampering, a utility must adjust a customer’s bill going back three months in cases of underpayment by the customer, and must adjust the customer’s bill going back six months in cases of over collection.
15. Why is my local telephone utility permitted to include charges from other companies on my local telephone bill?
The federal government, when implementing long distance competition, required any services that the company provides itself be provided to competitors (such as billing and collection). For these reasons telecommunications companies may bill for other companies.
16. I have charges on my telephone bill that I never authorized. What should I do?
When a company puts unauthorized charges on your telephone bill, it is called “cramming”. Cramming is a violation of Nevada law.
If the unauthorized charges were for services from your local telephone company, call your local telephone company, advise them that the charges were not authorized and request that they cancel the service and credit your bill.
If the unauthorized charges were billed by the local company for another company, call the company that placed the charges on your bill and advise them that the charges were not authorized and request that they cancel and credit the service. Then call your local company, advise them that the charges were unauthorized and ask them to return the charges to the unauthorized company.
If you wish to pursue the matter, you may file a cramming complaint with the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
17. Why can’t my local telephone company just block unauthorized charges from appearing on my bill?
The local telephone utility doesn’t know which charges you authorized and which ones you did not. It is presumed that all charges were authorized unless you tell the telephone utility otherwise. It is important for customers to examine their bills every month to identify these kinds of charges.