Navigating Utility Costs
The Consumer Utility Rate Advocacy Division (CURAD) of the Attorney General’s office works on behalf of Arkansas consumers to ensure quality utility services at reasonable rates. Since 2007, Arkansas ratepayers have accrued more than $800 million in rate savings.
Here are some suggestions for consumers dealing with utility companies and avoiding high-cost utility bills.
- If your bill is unaffordable, contact your utility and discuss a payment plan. However, if you sign up for a payment plan, you must be able to follow it or you may incur additional charges.
- If disconnecting utility services would risk the health of a resident with a serious medical condition, utility shutoff may be avoided temporarily. A physician’s certificate is required.
- By law, electric and gas utility service may not be suspended during certain cold-weather conditions.
- Utilities may be restricted from cutting off service to the elderly or disabled during hot weather if the ratepayer is registered with the utility.
- Energy assistance may be available. Please visit the websites of the Arkansas Community Action Agencies Association or the LIHEAP Clearinghouse for more details.
Avoiding high-cost bills:
- Invest in making your home or business as energy efficient as possible. Local electric and gas utility companies may be able to offer helpful advice. In addition, the Arkansas Energy Office provides energy efficiency tips at EnergyEfficiencyArkansas.org.
- You may consider level or “flat” billing options, which allow you to spread the cost of higher monthly bills over the course of the year. Be careful to read the details of your utility’s flat- or level-billing plan. With a level billing structure, you will pay the same amount each month, making budgeting more predictable and allowing you to avoid spikes in charges during seasons when you use more water or are running your air conditioner. Flat rates are typically estimated using your historical usage data. This may result in having a higher electric bill during the winter season that you would normally have because the cost of running your air conditioner in the summer will be spread throughout the entire year.
- Existing utility customers may be required to pay a deposit when customers fail to pay utility bills by the due date in two consecutive months or any three times over a 12-month period.
- Deposits may also be required for new customers who do not provide proof of satisfactory payment history with the same kind of utility for the previous 12 months, or when the customer has a past due, unpaid account from the same utility. The cost of the deposit cannot be more than the total of your two highest bills during the last 12 months.
- Utilities must return deposits, with interest, if all bills are paid in full by the due date over the next 12 months.
Please note that not all utilities are regulated by the PSC. Consumers with questions about other utilities can contact the Attorney General’s office.