Termination of Utility Service
The services provided by public utility companies, such as electricity and natural gas, are important to your health and safety. To make sure your power or water doesn’t get cut off, remember:
- Pay close attention to bills and notices. It’s easier and less expensive to avoid having your utility service cut off than it is to pay to get it reconnected.
- If you’re having trouble paying, contact the company. Let the company know that you are concerned about late bills and they’re more likely to work with you.
- Pay in installments. You may be able to work out an installment plan that will give you up to six months to pay off past-due charges. Under the plan, part of each monthly payment you make will go toward past charges, and the rest will pay for current services. A utility company is not required to apply your deposit toward a late bill unless you are closing your account.
Know your rights as a consumer. The North Carolina Utilities Commission sets the rules for public utility companies, including rates, billing and disconnection procedures. Here are the rules:
- You must be given a specific number of days to pay your bill. For example, electric and gas bills include a past-due date that is at least 25 days after the billing date. If the bill has not been paid by the past-due date, the company can charge a late fee of up to one percent.
- If your payment is late, a regulated electric or natural gas utility must provide you with written notice at least 10 days before they disconnect your service. The notice generally states that the amount you owe must be paid within ten days to keep your service from getting cut off. It should also spell out steps you can take to avoid disconnection. The company must contact you again at least 24 hours before they disconnect service.
- From November 1 through March 31, utility companies cannot disconnect service to households that: include someone who is disabled or age 65 or older; are unable to pay under an installment plan; and are certified by a local social services agency as eligible to receive assistance under an energy assistance program.
- Your power cannot be disconnected on Fridays, weekends, state or federal holidays, or the day before a state or federal holiday.
- Electric and gas companies are required to keep a list of households whose residents have special medical needs, such as being on life support equipment.
- If you are concerned about an elderly relative, keep in mind that any customer can designate another person to receive a separate copy of any utility service termination notices.
- The North Carolina Utilities Commission does not regulate towns and membership cooperatives that provide electric or gas services. Towns and cooperatives usually have their own service guidelines and you will need to discuss your situation with the town or cooperative manager.
We Can Help
If you have a complaint about utilities, contact us for help or call toll free within North Carolina at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.