Utility Costs and Scams
The Attorney General’s Consumer Utility Rate Advocacy Division (CURAD) works on behalf of Arkansas consumers to ensure quality utility services at reasonable rates. Below are some suggestions for consumers dealing with utility companies and avoiding high-cost utility bills.
- If your bill is unaffordable, contact your utility company and discuss a payment plan. 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.
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.
Not all utilities are regulated by the PSC. Consumers with questions about other utilities can contact the Attorney General’s office.
Utility Payment Scam
Paying monthly utility bills is an important task. For the convenience of consumers, utility companies often offer multiple payment methods. But scammers always find ways to prey on Arkansans to con them out of their hard-earned money.
The utility payment scam occurs when a consumer receives a phone call from someone who purports to be the consumer’s utility provider. The caller will tell the consumer they have an unpaid balance and that the utilities will be cut off for nonpayment if an immediate payment is not received. The caller will then offer one of two options to transmit the payment quickly – through a money transfer service or a prepaid debit card. Both individuals and small businesses have reported
becoming a victim of this scam.
How to spot a utility payment scam:
- The scammer will tell you that you have an unpaid balance, but you are current on all utility payments.
- The scammer will pressure you to pay through a wire transfer or prepaid debit card and not through the official methods offered by the utility.
How to ensure your payment gets to the utility company safely and securely:
- Track your utility payment due date on a calendar when you receive the bill.
- Drop off the payment at the utility office or an authorized payment location.
- Pay online on the utility company’s website with a credit card or call the company directly.
- Consider participating in an automated draft system, if it is offered.
- Mail the payment to the company directly.
If you fall victim to one of these phone calls, file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office.