Utility Bills Higher Than Expected
Consumer Brochures

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FOR IMPORTANT INFORMATION
ABOUT YOUR UTILITY BILLS

The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) frequently receives calls and letters from consumers disputing the amount of their electric/gas bills. Answers to the most commonly asked questions are included in this brochure.

We hope that you find this information helpful. Please contact the PSC's Office of External Relations if we can be of further assistance.

Are you wondering?  Are you wondering?

 

How will the PSC investigate my dispute?

When we receive a high bill dispute, the customer's letter (or dispute form) is forwarded to the utility providing the service. The utility provides information on the customer's account, which is reviewed to determine if there is an obvious reason for the unusually high bills. The PSC may require the utility to test the meter. Unfortunately, we are not always able to determine the reason for your higher-than-normal bills. The utility can only measure the consumption of gas or electric through an accurate meter. Our determination will be based on the accuracy of your meter and the meter readings.

 

Why are my neighbor's bills lower than mine are?

There are numerous variables which determine the amount of gas or electric consumed at a residence, such as the efficiency of the heating/cooling systems and the appliances, the size of a residence, the home's insulation, the outside temperature, and the personal habits of the people in your household. Therefore, you cannot judge how much your bill should be based on what has been billed to your neighbor. (The accuracy of your bill can only be determined by verifying the accuracy of your meter and meter readings.)

 

Do I have to pay my bill if I have a dispute?

You are required to pay the undisputed portion of your bill while the PSC or the utility is investigating your complaint. For example, if you are disputing your February bill for $200, you must pay your January bill and any other bill that will follow the disputed February bill. However, you do not have to pay the disputed amount while your complaint is being reviewed. A utility may disconnect your service if you fail to pay the undisputed portion of your bill, even while your dispute is pending before the PSC.

 

I think my meter is not accurate.   What can I do?

If you suspect that your meter is not registering your consumption accurately, you may ask the utility to test your meter. The Code of Maryland Regulations ("COMAR") states that "upon request by a customer and at no charge, the utility shall make a test of the accuracy of registration of the meter serving him, provided that these tests need not be made more frequently than once in 18 months." COMAR also states that you (or your representative) may be present when the meter is tested.

The results of the test shall be provided to you within a reasonable time after completion of the test and the utility must retain a record of the test for at least three years.

 

Is there another option if I do not want the utility to test the meter?

You may submit a written request to the PSC's Engineering Division for a "referee test," which means that a Commission representative and a utility representative will test your meter. You, or your representative, may be present when the meter is tested.Your request must include your name, address, daytime telephone number, name of your utility company and the type of meter to be tested (gas or electric). Your request must be accompanied by a $10.00 check or money order made payable to the Public Service Commission. If your meter is found to be inaccurate, your ten-dollar fee will be refunded to you. On the other hand, if the referee test confirms that your electric meter is operating within the PSC's accuracy requirements, the PSC will retain the $10 fee.

You should address your request to the PSC's Engineering Division at the address provided on the back of this brochure. You will be contacted by a PSC Engineer to schedule the test.

 

My service is off. Can my meter be tested?

Your service must be on in order for the utility or the PSC to test your meter. If you have a significant arrearage and/or your service is already disconnected for nonpayment, the utility may refuse to test your meter, or reconnect your service so that the PSC can referee a meter test, unless you make full payment or obtain satisfactory payment arrangements on your entire bill.

 

If my meter is in error, will the bill be adjusted?

A billing adjustment will be made by the utility if the results of a meter test reveal that your meter was not measuring your gas or electricity consumption within the PSC's prescribed 98% - 102% accuracy requirements. If your meter was registering below the limits, the utility will bill you for the undercharges. However, if your meter was registering above the limits, the utility will issue a credit for the overcharges.

 

Do I have to pay an estimated bill?

You are responsible for paying your bill every month, whether the reading was estimated or actual. If you work during the day and the utility does not have access to your meter, you can either call in your own reading, send in utility-provided meter reading post cards, or give the utility a key. Many utilities are also installing (at no charge) remote meter reading devices, which allow the utility to read the meter from outside. If estimated bills are a problem, you should call your utility to ask if the remote meter reading devices are available in your area.

 

Should I be required to pay my bill if the utility made a mistake?

You will be required to pay the adjusted bill. Maryland Regulations permit a gas and/or electric utility to adjust a customer's bill for the following reasons:

  • Malfunctioning meter.
  • Misapplication of rate schedule.
  • Erroneous meter reading.
  • Erroneous calculation of charges.
  • Over- or Under-estimated bills.

 

I've read this brochure, but I still want to file a dispute. What should I do?

You should contact your utility to attempt a resolution. If you are dissatisfied with their findings, you should complete an online dispute form or download a form and mail it to the PSC's Office of External Relations. We will accept a letter, in your own words, in lieu of a completed Dispute Form. If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact us. We will make every effort to assist you.

 

man on the phone  

Maryland Public Service Commission
Office of External Relations
William D. Schaefer Tower
6 St. Paul Street, 15th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21202
Voice:(410) 767-8028 or (800) 492-0474
Fax: (410) 333-6844