• Consumer Affairs Branch

    Frequently Asked Questions

    • 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 your utility company immediately. In addition, file a report with your local police department. If you believe you are being held responsible for utility bills charges established fraudulently under your name, and can provide proof of residence elsewhere, call or write CAB.
    • 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. 
    • When I apply for utility services, will I have to pay a deposit?  
      If you are a new utility customer or if you have an erratic payment history, the utility company (electric, gas, water, or telephone) may require you to pay a deposit if you cannot establish credit by another method such as a letter from someone who agrees to pay your bill if you do not. This is called a letter of guarantee. Electric, gas and telephone utility customers may establish credit by demonstrating that they have paid utility bills on time for the preceding twelve months. For electric and gas utilities, the deposit cannot exceed two times the average monthly bill for residential service.  
    • Am I required to provide my social security number when applying for new service?
      For the establishment of service, utilities may require information such as legal name, date of birth, and social security number of the applicant.  Some utilities may provide an alternate means (Driver’s License) to establish identity for new service applications. 
    • In what situations may a utility terminate my service?
      In general electric, gas, water and telecommunications utilities may terminate service, after providing notice to the occupant, for failure to pay a delinquent bill or provide a security deposit, or for violating a rule applicable to the utility service. Utilities may terminate service without notice in certain limited situations for example, unsafe or hazardous conditions, fraud, or abandonment of a service location.  Telecommunications utilities must continue to provide access to call 911 and a number to contact the utility when they shut off basic service temporarily due to nonpayment.  A telecommunications utility may block calling features (like caller ID or voicemail) for delinquent telephone service charges, before disconnecting dial tone. Blocking of these features is not regulated by the CPUC. The telephone company is not required to give notice prior to the actual blocking of the feature.  
    • What can I do about a rude, abusive and unprofessional utility representative or employee?
      CAB does not regulate utility employee's conduct. However, you may call CAB and request to speak to the Executive Office of the utility to and report the incident. Be prepared to provide details of the contact, including the employee’s name or ID number.
    • How much notice does the utility have to give me before my service is disconnected?
      Before a gas, electric or water company may disconnect service, the company must provide a 15 days written notice explaining: the reason for the disconnection; the amount which must be paid in order to avoid shut-off and the earliest date you will be disconnected if you fail to pay the amount owed. If not paid after the first notice, the utility must provide a second notice at least 48 hours before termination of your service and a final call notice. Telecommunications utilities are required to give you a disconnection notice at least five days before shutting off your service. However, they must continue to provide access to call 911 and a number to contact the utility when basic service is temporarily shut off due to nonpayment.
    • Can my utility service be shut off on a weekend or holiday?
      Utilities may not disconnect or terminate service on the weekend, or on a legal holiday, unless there is a safety issue that requires the service to be disconnected.
    • 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. 
    • Questions Related to Communications (Telephone) Industry
    • I have a charge on my telephone bill that I didn’t authorize. Do I have to pay the charges? Why can’t my local telephone company block the charges?
      It is important that consumers review their telephone bills carefully to identify any unauthorized charges. If no one recalls ordering the product or service in question, contact the company whose service/product you are being billed for. Tell them you did not authorize the charge and request a refund or bill adjustment.  Your local telephone company can assist you with blocking third party and collect billed calls.
      You do not have to pay for products or services you did not authorize; but you must pay all the non-disputed charges on your bill while your issue is under review by the utility company or the CPUC. Withholding total payment can lead to the suspension and possible disconnection of telephone service.
      If you are unable to resolve the issue with the billing company or your local telephone company, you should write to the CPUC Consumer Affairs Branch.
    • The rates for operator handled calls are very high. What can I do to dispute the charges? 
      While the cost of Operator Assisted calls is no longer regulated by the CPUC, we can still assist you to verify the carrier met the requirements of posting the rates, or providing the option to listen to the rates before placing or accepting the call. 
    • My Cable/Internet Bill is wrong/Service is not working. MY U-verse, or FiOS bill is wrong/Service is not working.
      The CPUC does not have jurisdiction over all technologies offered by privately owned utilities. Video and Internet services, including subscriptions, billing, and equipment, are not under CPUC authority. If you are not able to resolve the issue with the company directly, for cable TV services please contact your local city government for assistance. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may offer additional assistance for disputes about these services. However, if there is an issue or question about your Internet provided phone service (VoIP), under such brand names as U-verse or FiOS, the CPUC has limited authority, but we will attempt to assist you. Please submit your complaint in writing with a detailed explanation of your problem with the VoIP service provider.
    • My long distance service was switched without my authorization (slamming). What should I do to get my old carrier back?  

      When your phone service is switched to another Carrier without your knowledge or permission, contact your local phone company and report the problem. You should also file a complaint with the CPUC on our CAB website or by mailing a letter of complaint to:

      CPUC Consumer Affairs Branch
      505 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94120

      We can assist you with any unauthorized fees and make certain your service is returned to your carrier of choice. In addition, your complaint will assist the CPUC in investigating the offending Carrier.

      For more information, visit the CALPHONE website.

    • I discontinued my service and was charged an Early Termination Fees. How do I dispute the charge?

      If Early Termination Fees are assessed for non-adherence to the “terms and conditions” of the contract for service provided by Cellular Carriers, we may be able to assist if there are compelling reasons why the service was terminated by the consumer. Please visit the CAB website and open a complaint or write to us at:

      CPUC Consumer Affairs Branch
      505 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94120

      We can also assist Landline business consumers who feel they have been unfairly assessed contractual Early Termination Fees.

    • Who is responsible for the wiring and phone jacks inside my residence?
      The telephone customer is responsible for inside wiring and phone jacks. Anything from the Network Interface Device (NID) back to the Central Office (CO) is the responsibility of the telephone company. California Civil Code 1941.4 makes residential landlords responsible for installing at least one usable phone jack in each unit, and placing and maintaining standard phone wiring inside their rental units. If you have a problem and are not a tenant in a rental situation, you may do the repair work yourself, hire a vendor, or have your utility company send a technician for a fee.
    • My local telephone service was switched to another carrier without my authorization. What should I do?
      When a company switches your telephone service without your authorization whether local, long distance, or both, it is called “slamming”. Slamming is a violation of state and federal law. Call your telephone utility of choice and advise them of what happened. Your local service provider should be able to work with the other company to return your service as it was prior to be being “slammed”.  If you are billed unauthorized charges by the “slamming” Phone Company, contact CAB.  
    • Is there a way to make calls I receive from a correctional facility less expensive?
      CAB does not regulate the rates for placement of calls from inside correctional facilities. These rates are negotiated between the correctional facility and the telephone utility that provides the service. However, in 2015, the FCC has mandated a cap on the charge per minute that be assessed by the telephone utility company in contract with correctional facilities offering these services. Please visit the FCC website or call toll free 1-888-225-5322 for more information. 

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