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Your Home Energy Consumer Rights

A guide to help you understand your rights and how to voice your concerns

En español | Are you having a problem with your home energy bill? Wonder where to turn because your power service is unreliable? Do you want to voice your concerns about prices? As a home energy consumer, you have certain rights: a way to file complaints, voice your concerns and other consumer protections. AARP is fighting to save you money on your home energy bills and wants you to be an informed and engaged consumer.

See also: Save up to $1,000 a year on your energy bills.

House-shaped radiator

House-shaped radiator. — Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

Understand Your Consumer Rights

Protections for home energy consumers vary by state. However, certain protections are common:

  • Complaint Process If you are unable to resolve a problem with your energy company, you can file a complaint with the state public utility commission. They can help resolve disputes with your utility. Find your state utility commission at http://www.naruc.org/commissions.cfm.
  • Public Participation You can express your concerns about energy costs and reliability at public meetings and hearings in many states. Check your state utility commission for upcoming meetings and any procedures to follow to get on the speakers list.
  • Comment Submission Most states provide options to submit comments on proposed changes in rates or service by mail, email or online.
  • Shut-off Protection — Many states prevent utility companies from turning off energy service when the weather gets very cold or hot even if you're behind on your bill.
  • Disconnection Notice — Requires that you be notified before power is shut off.
  • Payment Plans — If you are struggling to pay your energy bills, your utility company may work with you to come up with a manageable payment plan. In some states, consumers have the right to a payment plan.
  • Budget Billing — Enables you to spread your payments out equally over 12 months if you are struggling to pay your energy bills. You can also extend payment of previous energy bills beyond 12 months. Check with your utility company for specific details.
  • Estimated Bills — Consumers sometimes receive estimated bills that are much higher than expected. In most states consumers have a right to have their meter read periodically, rather than rely on estimates. To avoid estimated bills, you may be allowed to read your own meter and submit it to your utility company.  
  • Meter Tests — You can request a meter test if you believe that your meter readings are inaccurate.
  • Deposit New customers are sometimes required to put down a deposit for energy service based on certain standards established by the public utility commission. Contact the utility commission if you question the amount of deposit required. Find out if you can pay the deposit over several months.
  • Energy Assistance — If you meet the income requirements, you can get help paying for your energy bills from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Call 1-866-674-6327 to learn more.
  • Do Not Call — If you live in a state where you have a choice of energy suppliers, avoid aggressive marketing pitches by getting on the "Do Not Call List" at www.donotcall.gov. You can check your utility commission to get on any state level lists.

Next: Action steps. >>

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