The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) is the state agency responsible for regulating utility companies.1 DPU regulates gas, electric, and privately owned water companies (but not municipal water companies).2 Telephone companies are regulated by the Department of Telecommunications and Energy (DTE) and operate under a slightly different set of regulations.3
The DPU has a special consumer hotline staffed by advocates who are trained to help consumers when companies do not follow the law or refuse to make reasonable agreements. DPU's advocates are not lawyers, and they will not represent you. However, DPU advocates are able to resolve many of the problems that customers have with utility companies. You can reach the consumer hotline at (617) 737-2836 or toll-free (877) 886-5066.
Before calling the DPU consumer line, you must first try to resolve your problem directly with the utility company. You can do this by calling the company's Customer Service number or writing the company a letter. If this fails to resolve the problem, call the DPU Consumer Division and explain the problem, providing as many details as possible.
If the DPU advocate cannot help you, you can try speaking to a DPU Consumer Division supervisor. As a last resort, you have the right to request a hearing against the utility company, with a neutral hearing officer supplied by the DPU. The utility company cannot terminate your service while an appeal is pending on a disputed bill.4
1 . The Department of Public Utilities was formerly called the Department of Telecommunications & Energy (DTE). As of April 11, 2007, DTE became two separate agencies: the Department of Telecommunications & Cable (DTC), which handles telecommunications and cable issues, and the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), which handles electric, gas, siting, pipeline, water and transportation issues.
2 . See generally G.L. c. 164 (Gas and Electricity), G.L. c. 165 (Water), 220 C.M.R. §25.00 (Billing and Termination Regulations for Gas, Electric, and Water Companies).
3 . DPU 18448 (telephone regulations). (Note: The rules adopted in DPU 18448 can be hard to obtain. They are available at the offices of the DPU and also as an appendix to Utilities Advocacy for Low income Households (2nd Ed.), available at no charge from the National Consumer Law Center, 617-542-8010).
4 . G.L. c. 164, §1F(2); 22D C.M.R. §25.02(1).
Produced by Charlie Harak Created May 2011