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Laws regarding utility service disconnection vary from state to state, including consumer protections during the winter heating season. Here is a summary of frequently asked questions:
Does Indiana law prohibit utilities from disconnecting customers in the winter?
Yes, but only on certain conditions. Under Indiana Code 8-1-2-121, electric and natural gas utilities in Indiana may not disconnect a customer between December 1 and March 15 IF the customer is:
Disconnection can still happen under certain circumstances (such as an emergency, fraudulent use of services, meter tampering, or if the consumer requests it).
Does the moratorium apply to all electric and natural gas utilities in Indiana?
Yes. It applies to investor-owned and municipal utilities, as well as rural electric membership cooperatives (REMCs). However, it does not apply to providers of bulk fuels, such as propane. It also does not apply to water, sewage disposal, or telecommunications service providers.
Does the moratorium waive the customer’s responsibility to pay his or her bills?
No. While the moratorium is aimed at helping consumers stay connected to vital services during the year’s coldest months, consumers are still responsible for paying their bills. Any customer who cannot pay a utility bill on time and in full should contact the utility immediately to make payment arrangements.
What if I can’t afford the entire amount due?
If you make payment arrangements with a utility and honor the agreement, your odds of being disconnected in the spring are dramatically lower.
The OUCC strongly urges consumers who are covered by the moratorium to continue to pay heating bills through the winter, even if it is only a partial payment. A partial payment shows the utility that you are making a good-faith effort to keep your energy bill under control.
Can a utility disconnect service if there are small children in the home? If the temperature falls to a certain level, will that help prevent disconnection?
Indiana law leaves these decisions entirely to the utility and its discretion. The only factors that qualify a consumer for the moratorium are whether a consumer receives or qualifies for EAP funds, as described above.
Can disconnection be prevented if someone in the house has a serious health issue?
The utility must postpone a disconnection for 10 days if you provide a medical statement from a licensed doctor or a public health official. For more information, please see the OUCC’s Utility Service Disconnection fact sheet.
How important is it for me to communicate with my utility?
It’s crucial. If you are covered by the moratorium and have an outstanding bill with spring approaching, it is important that you contact your utility to make arrangements and discuss what can be done to keep your service on.
How do I find or contact my local Community Action Agency (CAA)?
CAAs have offices in all Indiana counties. To find one, visit http://incap.org/cap_agencies.html or contact the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority (IHCDA) at 1-800-872-0371.
Where else can I turn for financial help?
In most Indiana counties, you can learn more about local level resources for utility bill assistance simply by dialing 211.
To learn more, please see the OUCC’s Utility Service Disconnection fact sheet at www.in.gov/oucc/2382.htm.
Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor
115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204
Voice/TDD: (317) 232-2494
Fax: (317) 232-5923