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Utility disconnection and customers' rights

Home is where the heart is, but it is also where one can maintain health and comfort with basic utilities such as water, heating and cooling and electricity. When companies revoke such utilities without notice, an individual may go through a series of emotional and physical distress. In addition, the effects of having a utility service shut off likely stem from preexisting financial distress. Ohio has its own set of state disconnection regulations and laws, and such rules are made to assist those in need and who sometimes cannot pay monthly utility bills.

It is often illegal for utility companies to shut off its services, especially during months with extreme weather. Other circumstances come into play in regards to utility companies and the regulations they must adhere to for the protection of Ohio citizens.

Ohio's Utility Regulations

The National Center for Appropriate Technology provides state-by-state lists pertaining to utility disconnection laws. Ohio's protection dates that cover individuals who cannot pay utility bills are October 17 through April 14, and are not temperature-based. There is, however, a rule called the winter reconnect order, which the Public Utilities Commission issues on an annual basis. The winter reconnect order allows residential customers who are being disconnected or threatened with disconnection the opportunity to pay no more than $175 to maintain their utility service. Those who have already experienced a disconnection may pay no more than $36 to have their utilities reconnected.

Customers' Rights

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio provides a list of customers' rights in regards to state utility services. According to the PUCO, electric companies may not charge customers a deposit of more than 130 percent of the estimated average monthly bill for regulated services. If a customer fails to pay the electric bill by the due date, the company must send a 14-day notice before disconnecting the service. An exception to this rule is if an individual has a medical condition where the disconnection of electric service would be dangerous to health; these customers may qualify for a medical certification which would retain service for 30 days. However, medical certificates may only be used three times per household in a 12-month period.  

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