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Arkansas Public Service Commission
Does It Do Any Good To Complain?
The answer is Yes! Complaints are an important part of the Arkansas Public Service Commission's (APSC's) regulatory duties. They help us monitor utility compliance with our rules. Over 50,000 questions and complaints are handled each year by our Consumer Services Office.
The APSC has the authority to investigate utility service, safety, billing, and rates. We handle complaints about service outages, connection and suspension of service, billing problems, payment arrangements, and disputed charges.
The APSC does not have the authority to award monetary damages. Damage claims must be filed in a court of law.
The APSC regulates public utilities which provide electric, gas, and telephone service, and larger water and sewer companies.
The APSC does not regulate the rates and service of municipally-owned electric, gas, water, or sewer utilities; water and sewer improvement districts; or, utilities owned by property owners associations. However, the APSC does oversee municipally-owned utility lines for safety purposes.
If you have a complaint concerning all or part of an unpaid bill and tell your utility company that you are disputing the amount, your service should not be suspended during the complaint process. You may be required to post a deposit to cover the disputed amount. You must also pay all bills or parts of bills that are not in dispute. The utility company can suspend your service if you fail to do so.
* Decide what you want to accomplish. Do you want to complain about high rates? Do you want improved service quality? Be specific in stating your inquiry, request or complaint.
Formal vs. Informal - What's the Difference?
Basically, there are two different types of complaints that can be filed with the APSC: Informal and Formal. Each involves a different procedure. Informal complaints are handled by an APSC Consumer Services representative mediating your complaint.
Formal complaints are handled through a legal proceeding in which the complaint is presented by you or your attorney before an Administrative Law Judge.
You may make an informal complaint by phone, by letter, or in person to our Consumer Services Office. Consumer Services is responsible for answering questions, providing information, and resolving informal complaints. Almost all complaints are resolved informally and investigations begin the day your complaint is received.
You can save valuable time by providing all relevant information when you contact Consumer Services. Be prepared to provide:
* Your name, address and phone number;
APSC rules require a response from a utility within 15 days of our contact regarding a complaint. Once a response is received, Consumer Services investigates the circumstances to ensure compliance with state laws, Commission rules, and the company's tariffs. As soon as a decision is reached, you are notified of the outcome.
The formal complaint process is available if you are not satisfied with the results of an informal investigation. Formal complaints must be filed in writing with the Secretary of the Commission.
Before bringing a formal complaint to the APSC, you must give your utility a chance to resolve the problem. The law requires that you make a "good faith" effort to do so.
A utility has 20 days to file a response to a formal complaint. An Administrative Law Judge will be assigned to handle your complaint.
If the Commission has jurisdiction to decide the dispute, and if the Administrative Law Judge decides that a hearing is necessary, an Order will be issued notifying you of the time and place of the hearing.
During the formal complaint process, you may, but do not have to, be represented by a lawyer. You or your attorney will be required to attend the hearing. If you see that you (or your attorney) cannot attend a hearing that has been set, you may file a Motion for a change of the hearing date with the Secretary of the Commission.
Occasionally, an agreement is reached before a hearing that is mutually satisfactory to both the customer and the company. When that happens, the matter can be dismissed by the Administrative Law Judge.
The Administrative Law Judge is responsible for conducting the hearing and for giving you or your attorney the opportunity to present testimony and any evidence you may have. The Administrative Law Judge will also allow each side to ask questions of, or cross-examine, the other. A court reporter will be present at the hearing and will make a record of everything that is said or presented as evidence.
The decision on a formal complaint is not made during the hearing. The decision is issued in the form of an Order after the Administrative Law Judge has had an opportunity to review the file and the record prepared by the Court Reporter. The Commission's Order is binding on both the consumer and the utility company unless (and until) it is overturned by a court on appeal.
Filing requirements for formal complaints are explained in our Rules of Practice and Procedure which are available through the Office of the Secretary of the Commission. Instructions are also available to help individuals prepare a formal complaint when they are not represented by an attorney. The instructions are available from the Consumer Services Office or the Secretary of the Commission.
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.