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Applications for Service and Deposits
There are established rules that utility companies must follow when an individual applies for service. The following information will explain the rules for applying for service and deposit requirements.
Applications for Service
Many utility companies require written applications for service. However, there are many companies that allow applications for service to be placed over the telephone. Whether application is made in writing or over the telephone, the company can require the individual requesting the service to provide acceptable evidence of his identity. If the company has reason to suspect that the evidence offered is unreliable, it may refuse to accept it and request additional evidence of identity.
New applications for service must be processed in the order in which the applications are received by the company. Priority will be given to applications involving medical emergencies and public health and safety. The company may require written evidence that such a situation exists.
When you apply for service, the company must give you an approximate date that service will be provided to you. If the company later finds that service cannot be provided on that date, it must promptly notify you of the delay and provide you with a new expected service date.
In some cases, the company receives applications for service in areas where no facilities to provide the service are available. In such cases, the company must notify you in writing of the conditions under which service will be provided and give you an approximate date that the service will be available. Most of these cases will require the company to build the facilities needed to serve you and you may be required to pay all or a portion of these construction costs. Each of the companies have policies that have been approved by the Arkansas Public Service Commission for extending facilities. These policies include how the cost to construct the facilities will be determined and what portion the applicant will be required to pay.
There are times when a utility is allowed to refuse to provide service. Those situations are limited and include the following reasons:
- failure to pay a bill in your name;
- failure to pay a bill in someone else's name when you were also a user of the service or occupant of the premises;
- failure to pay a required deposit;
- fraud or misrepresentation of facts relevant to obtaining the service;
- using the service in an unauthorized manner;
- violations of state or municipal laws governing the service;
- threatening utility employees or their families
- threatening to damage utility property;
- inadequate facilities; or,
- hazardous conditions.
If a utility refuses to serve you, it must give you a written explanation of the reason for refusal within seven business days. The explanation must include the reason service is being refused and what you must do to correct the situation.
Utility companies may require new customers to pay a deposit to guarantee payment for service. The deposit guarantees payment in the event that a customer becomes delinquent and service must be discontinued. Utility companies must set a uniform cost that will be assessed to all applicants in a non-discriminatory manner.
New Service. Deposits for new service may be paid at the rate of one-half before service begins and one-half with the first bill. The deposit will be refunded with interest if you pay your bills by the due date for 12 consecutive months.
The amount of a deposit cannot exceed the estimated bill for two average billing periods if payment for service is due after service is rendered. If payment for service is due before service is rendered (as in the case of local telephone companies), the amount of deposit cannot exceed the estimated bill for one billing period.
In certain circumstances, the utility may waive the deposit requirement for new service. Examples of what a utility may accept in place of a deposit are letters of credit from previous utilities with which the applicant has had service for at least twelve months, or a written guarantee of a responsible third party. The guarantee made by a third party only covers the amount of a deposit. Most utilities require that a third-party guarantor be a customer of the utility whose account is in good standing.
Existing Customers. A utility may require a new deposit or an increase in the amount of a deposit from an existing customer. This can happen if your usage was underestimated when your original deposit was calculated, if you don't pay your bill, or pay with insufficient funds checks twice in a twelve-month period. Misrepresenting identity, fraud, and tampering with utility equipment are other reasons an additional deposit can be charged.
The total of all deposits should not exceed the sum of two maximum billings. The only exceptions to that rule are deposits involving bankruptcy, fraud, or tampering.