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Know your rights as a utility consumer

As an electric or gas consumer, you have a number of rights that will help you to make informed decisions and protect you against unfair conduct.

Table of Contents

Billing and termination

The billing and termination regulations enforced by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) restrict shut-offs during the winter months, prohibit security deposits and late charges for residential customers, and provide other consumer protections.

Discount rate customers

Discount rate customers are individuals and families whose household income is at or below 175% of the federal poverty level.  You may qualify as a low-income customer if you are receiving certain benefits, live in public or subsidized housing, or are certified eligible for fuel assistance. Discount rate customers receive a discount of 25-35%, depending on their distribution company. These discounts are applied to the delivery service portion of the bill. In addition, the fuel assistance agency network extends special energy efficiency programs to discount rate customers to help them reduce their bill by using less energy.

Competitive supply

Unauthorized switching of energy suppliers or "slamming"

Basic service provides customers with a continuous power supply through their distribution company when they are not receiving power through either a competitive supplier or a municipal aggregator. It is available to all customers at any time.

You cannot be switched to a competitive supplier without your consent.  Unauthorized switching of energy suppliers - also known as "slamming" - is against the law.  Your consent must be either by a written letter of authorization signed by you or your oral statement to an independent third party, such as a separate verification company.

If you are switched without your consent, you may file a complaint with the DPU.

3-day rescission period

If you consent to switch to a competitive supplier, your choice will not take effect for at least 3 business days from the time you receive your terms and conditions from the competitive supplier. If you change your mind before the end of that 3-day period and cancel the switch, you will not incur any charges.

Terms of service

Prior to providing service, suppliers must provide you a terms of service statement. This document will detail:

  • All charges
  • The length of the contract
  • The payment due date
  • The manner in which a competitive supplier provides notice of any changes in the terms of service
  • A toll-free number to call for more information

Contract summary form

The competitive supplier must also provide you with a contract summary form which summarizes important aspects of the product you are purchasing.  This document will include information about:

  • the price
  • the length of the contract
  • enrollment fees
  • an early cancellation fee, if applicable
  • other fees, if applicable
  • automatic renewal
  • renewable energy content
  • other products and services

More information about the contract summary form is available on the contract summary form webpage.

Automatic renewal notification

Competitive suppliers must provide residential electric and gas customers on a fixed rate that have an automatic renewal provision with an automatic renewal notification.  The automatic renewal notification must be sent 30 to 60 days prior to the expiration of the contract. 

If a customer automatically renews to a monthly‑price product, competitive suppliers must send the customer a single notification prior to the date of the renewal. 

More information about the automatic renewal notification is available on the automatic renewal notification webpage.

Disclosure label

Competitive suppliers and distribution companies must furnish customers with a disclosure label prior to providing service and then on a quarterly basis. The label sets forth:

  • Prices
  • Types of power sources used
  • Air emissions
  • Labor practices
  • A toll-free number for customer service

More information about the disclosure label form is available on the information disclosure label webpage.

Electric submetering

Electric submetering is when an owner or landlord (owner) of a multi-unit property uses a single meter to serve the entire property’s electricity usage.  In Massachusetts, electric submetering is prohibited because it is the resale of electricity.  Residential property owners are required by the state Sanitary Code to pay for electricity for each unit unless the unit has a separate meter that is installed, maintained, and read by a utility company and a written rental agreement between the owner and the tenant provides for payment by the tenant in rent.  For more information and resources, visit the DPU's electric submetering webpage.

Contact

Fax

(617) 305-3742

Address

Department of Public Utilities
One South Station, 5th floor
Boston, MA 02110
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