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BILLING - (FACTURACIÓN)
What You Should Know
About Your Utility Bills
A Publication of the Arkansas Public Service Commission
The best way to protect your rights as a utility customer is to pay your bills on time each month. This simple step is the surest way to keep your service and credit intact. The failure of customers to pay their bills can affect the financial health of a utility and could ultimately result in higher utility bills for everyone.
About Your Bill
Your bill contains many items of information. The Commission requires that most of the charges on your bill be shown individually to help customers understand exactly what they are paying for. This information includes:
- the period of time covered by the bill;
- the net amount of all payments and other credits made to your account since your last billing;
- any previous balance due;
- the amount of any late payment charge and when it will be applied to your account;
- the date the bill was mailed;
- the date the bill is due;
- a list of the charges and credits which includes deposit installments and refunds, customer or minimum charges, and taxes;
- whether the usage was estimated; and,
- a statement that the customer may contact the company about any billing or service problem, or for a delayed payment agreement.
Billing Cycles and Due Dates
There are two types of billing cycles available to utility companies.
- One requires the due date of a bill to be no less than twenty-two calendar days after the date the bill is mailed. The 22-day cycle allows a company to impose a late payment charge. The amount of this late charge cannot exceed 10% of the first $30.00 and 2% of the remainder.
- The other requires the due date to be no less than fourteen days after the date the bill is mailed and does not allow the company to impose a late charge.
There may be times when your utility company is unable to obtain an actual meter reading from which to calculate your bill. When that happens, an estimated usage will be entered on your account. You will know when your bill has been estimated -- the company is required to clearly identify it with an "E" or "EST," or the word "ESTIMATED."
Some gas and electric utilities allow customers to read their meters and send the reading to the utility each month. If no reading has been received by a utility by the billing date, usage is estimated. No company, however, can estimate your bill for more than two consecutive months.
Customers have several options available to assist them in paying their bills.
Delayed Payment Agreements
If you are unable to pay your bill by its due date, call your company to arrange a delayed payment agreement or "DPA." A DPA is a written contract between you and the utility setting out a payment plan through which you may pay one-fourth of the bill as a down payment and the agreed-upon amounts along with your regular monthly bills for the next three months. The company must send or give you a copy of the DPA. You must contact the company and request a DPA before the company's close of business on the last day to pay printed on the most recent shut off notice. If you do not keep the terms of the DPA, the company can suspend your service without advance notice to you and you will not be eligible for another DPA for twelve months.
If you do not want to enter a DPA, the company may allow you to enter a payment extension. An extension agreement requires that the bill be paid within thirty calendar days of the due date of the bill. If you do not keep your payment extension, the company can suspend your service without advance notice to you.
Levelized Billing Plans
Levelized billing plans are offered by electric, gas and water utilities. These plans allow you to budget for utility costs much the same way as you budget for other household expenses. To find out how your utility's plan works, contact the business office for your area.
Extended Absence Payment Plans
All utility companies have bill payment options available to customers to avoid suspension when they are away from their home for an extended period of time. Some of these options are advance payments for the service or having the bill mailed to another address during the customer's absence. To find out what options are available from your utility company, contact the business office for your area.
Extended Due Date Policy
Utility customers who receive AFDC, AABD, SSI, or whose primary source of income is Social Security or VA disability or retirement benefits are eligible for an extended due date. The extended due date is intended to enable utilities to change a qualifying customer's bill payment due date to coincide with or follow the customer's receipt of that income. The company may require verification of the customer's source of income. The company may impose a late payment charge on plan participants who do not pay by the extended due date and can remove a participant from the plan if the customer does not pay his bills by the extended due date two times in a row or any three times in the last twelve months. To find out if you are eligible for an extended due date, contact the business office for your area.
When a utility discovers that it has made an error in your billing, it must take the necessary steps to correct the error. These errors are usually caused by faulty meters or meter reading mistakes.
If the error is caused by a faulty meter, the utility must attempt to determine when the meter first began to register inaccurately. If that date cannot be determined, the correction period will begin six months prior to the date the faulty meter was removed. The utility may have to estimate your usage for that period, but the estimate will be based on your previous usage at the same location.
Billing errors usually result in an overbilling or an underbilling. If a utility overbills you, it must explain the error and refund the amount of the overbilling within 30 days after discovering the error. The refund can be given as a credit to your account unless you request otherwise. If the overbilling was the fault of the utility, the utility must pay you interest on the overbilled amount.
If the utility discovers that it has charged you less than it should have, it must explain the error and your options for paying the underbilled amount. If you are underbilled for one or more billing periods, the utility must allow you at least that many billing periods to pay the correct amount. If the error was your fault, the utility may charge you interest on the underbilled amount. This situation most often occurs when the customer is responsible for reading his own meter.
If you have questions about a regulated utility or a problem you are unable to resolve, contact our Consumer Services Office. You can come to see us in person, write to us, or call us on our local or toll-free numbers.
Phone Numbers: 501-682-1718 1-800-482-1164,
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 400
Little Rock, AR 72203-0400
Street Address: 1000 Center Street
Little Rock, Arkansas