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Rights during Termination Process

Produced by Jen Bosco
Last updated May 2017

27

1. Electric, Gas, and Water

If a company tries to shut off your service for failure to pay for service at your current address, it must comply with the following procedures:

  • The company must first send the initial bill. You have at least 48 days from the day that you receive this initial bill until a company can shut off your service for not paying the bill.
  • The company must then send you a reminder notice called a "Second Request for Payment." The company must wait at least 27 days after sending you the first bill before sending you a reminder notice.
  • The company must send you a "Final Notice of Termination." It must wait until 45 days after sending you the first bill before sending you a final notice. This notice must give you at least 72 hours' (three days') notice as to when the termination will actually happen for gas and electricity, or 36 hours' (one and a half days’) notice for water.28
  • A company cannot terminate your account for non-payment of any portion of any bill that you are disputing.29 If you think that you have been billed incorrectly, you can dispute your bill by contacting the company by phone, mail, or in person. The company then must investigate your claim and notify you in writing of the results of the investigation. If you disagree with the company's findings, you can file an appeal at the DPU and request a hearing.
  • Any company employee attempting to shut off your service must first see if anyone is home and explain to that person that service is about to be terminated. The employee must present that person with a notice describing all of the special termination protections, which include serious illness, infants, winter protection, and the elderly. The employee must postpone the shut-off for three days if you claim any of the protections. If no one is home, however, the company can shut off your service, but must leave a financial hardship form and a notice describing available protections under your door.
  • Shut-offs can be done only between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Shut-offs cannot be done on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, holiday, or the day before a holiday.
  • During the winter months, electric and gas companies must call you or notify you in person before shutting off your service. If no one is home, the shut-off cannot legally be completed.30

2. Telephone31

For some land line telephone customers, telephone companies must follow termination procedures similar to those required of electric, gas, and water companies, with the following differences:

  • You have a minimum of 45 days, rather than 48 days, between the initial bill and a potential shut-off. A telephone company has to wait 30 days after sending you an initial bill before it can send you a first termination notice, and the first termination notice has to be sent 15 days before the shut-off date.
  • The telephone company does not have to send you a second request for payment before sending you the first termination notice. However, the company must send you two termination notices, the second of which must be sent five days before the shut-off.
  • Regardless of the season, telephone companies must make at least one telephone call to inform you that a shut-off is scheduled. If no one answers, however, the shut-off can be completed.32
  • There is no requirement that a company employee attempting to shut off your service check to see if you are at home or leave information under your door.

Endnotes

27 . The procedures described in this section are mandated by 220 C.M.R. §§25.02, 25.03.

28 . 220 C.M.R. §25.02(3)

29 . 220 C.M.R. §25.02(3)

30 . 220 C.M.R. §25.03.

31 . The procedures described in this section are mandated by DPU 18448.

32 . DPU 18448, Rule 5.9.

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