If you are faced with disconnection, think your power was illegally disconnected, or need information on utility or telephone assistance programs, then the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel can help with addressing all of those needs and more. The government affiliated organization was created to advise consumers on their rights and to try to help them stay connected to their utility service.
Most energy providers and phone companies in Ohio offer some form of assistance to their customers. There are also several government created programs. Some of the more common solutions are below. Staff from the Consumer Counsel office can help people apply, advise them on their rights, and otherwise support individuals.
The Winter Reconnect Order is usually implemented each year by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). This will ensure that all natural gas and electric customers have the opportunity to avoid a disconnection of their power by making a one time payment of usually around $175. This will also require customers to enter into a payment arrangement with their utility or gas company for any remaining balance that may be due. The Winter Reconnect Order will usually go into effect October 15th until April 15th. So consumers are always offered this right.
Ohio has also undergone some deregulation of energy companies. Families now have the ability to choose to purchase their electricity and/or natural gas supply from the local utility company, which is the most traditional option. However people also now have a number of additional retail energy suppliers from which to choose from. The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel can help people navigate these various programs and help them decide which is the best for them in their situation.
Receive information, including copies of fact sheets, which will give customers information about current retail offers that are available to them. Also get details on the price of these various offers and specifics on what the utilities are charging. Pricing information is provided on all companies, including Duke Energy, Columbia Gas, Vectren, Dominion East Ohio, and others.
Energy conservation is always stressed by the state. Learn how adding extra insulation to walls and attics, switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), and installing programmable thermostats can save you tens of dollars every month on heating and utility bills. Several new programs are available in Ohio for consumers to become more energy efficient.
Many electric and natural gas utilities are also offering cash rebates, discounts and other incentives to help people save money on their bills. Some provide incentives to purchase high efficiency shower heads or programmable thermostats, or will help people have upgrades performed on their home. The Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel will have the phone numbers and additional details on these conservation programs. In addition to that, get details on how to sign up.
Some of the contact information for the various energy companies in Ohio are below. Call a company directly, or work through Ohio Consumers’ Counsel.
The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel can also help with telephone disconnections. If you have received a disconnection notice (either landline or cell phone), the first step to take is to contact your local telephone company to make payment arrangements on your account. Many local telephone companies in Ohio have financial assistance programs that will offer reduced rates or that will provide basic telephone service for those who qualify. If this doesn't work staff from the Office of the Ohio Consumer’s Counsel (OCC) can also help residential consumers facing disconnection.
Learn about your rights and consumer protections. For example, telephone providers need to send a notice to the customer at least seven days before your telephone service is disconnected. It will be included with your monthly phone bill and will not be sent separately. Also, most Ohio telephone companies must provide the customer with access to emergency service for at least 14 days past the disconnection date. It will need to allow households to continue to call 911 and/or an operator. The law states that the phone is for emergencies only, and not personal calls.
Assistance with reconnection is offered too. Most telephone companies in Ohio cannot deny a customer reconnection of their local service. Even if you have previous credit problems or past due balances, you are still entitled to reconnection. You will need to agree to past past due bills and make payment arrangements where needed. An installment plan may be an option here too.
The customer may still be required to pay reconnection fees or a deposit if needed. However per state law, deposit fees can't exceed 230 percent of the estimated charges for one month’s phone service. You will not be required to pay any non-related charges.
Get information on other telephone assistance programs as well, such as Lifeline. This provides families with a number of benefits, restrictions, and support in obtaining, and keeping, your phone service. Learn about the qualification guidelines, speak with a counselor on how to apply and get answers to frequently asked questions. This service is available from all local wire-line carriers.
The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel is located at 10 West Broad Street, Suite 1800, Columbus, OH, 43215-3485. Or call (614) 466-8574.
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