Learn from the most commonly asked questions regarding how and when to consider filing a complaint about your utility services.
What is a consumer complaint?
A consumer complaint can be the result of a billing dispute, difficulty in getting service or repairs completed to your satisfaction, poor quality of service, or other utility related issues.
Who may have a complaint?
Anyone who is an account holder for electric, natural gas, or telephone services is responsible for the billing and payment of a utility account. This may be a family member, custodian, or estate executor.
If I have a complaint about my utility bill or service, what is my first step as a DC utility consumer?
Consumers must attempt to negotiate problems with the company first. Frequently, the complaint is resolved immediately and satisfactorily once the company is notified of the problem. If not, aggrieved customers may contact OPC. As part of its statutory mandate, OPC may assist and/or represent individual utility consumers in resolving disputes with PEPCO, DC Water Washington Gas, Verizon, or other public service providers serving consumers in the District of Columbia.
How do I file a complaint with OPC?
Consumer complaints may be made online, over the telephone, or in person. The majority of complaints are received over the phone and more infrequently, on a walk-in basis. No appointment is necessary.
What information must I provide to OPC when making a complaint?
The OPC complaint specialist will need the customer’s name, address, name of the utility company, account and telephone number, the nature of the complaint, and the name of the company representative with whom you spoke. Other demographic information may be requested for informational purposes only.
May I complain about more than billing problems?
Yes. You may complain about problems with service, billing or any other issue related to the public utilities in the District of Columbia.
What happens to my complaint once it is made to OPC?
The consumer complaint specialist or an OPC attorney will determine whether your complaint has merit. If it does, your complaint will be handled first on an informal basis. Informal resolution of a complaint is accomplished once an agreement satisfactory to the consumer and the utility company is negotiated. In the event informal resolution is not reached, you have the right to request a formal hearing before a hearing officer of the Public Service Commission (PSC). In some cases, the consumer may be represented by an attorney from OPC at the formal hearing. Ninety-eight percent of complaints received by OPC are resolved informally.
When a consumer contacts OPC to make a water complaint about DC Water, they will meet an intake specialist to discuss their case and provide demographic information. After intake is completed a Consumer Outreach Specialist will review the intake and discuss the merits of the case with the consumer. For water consumers only, the Consumer Outreach Specialist will send the consumer a consent form. OPC is unable to advocate on behalf of water consumers unless OPC submits a completed consent form to DC Water. The consumer should not directly send the consent form to DC Water. Depending on the nature of the complaint and where the consumer is in the challenging the bill process will determine the Consumer Outreach Specialist’s next steps. Water consumers have twenty (20) days for the bill issued date to challenge their bill in WRITING to DC Water. DC Water will investigate and provide a Bill Investigation Report (BIR). If the consumer disagrees with the findings of the BIR, a consumer has 15-days from when they received the BIR to file a petition for an administrative hearing. OPC’s Consumer Outreach Specialist will submit a litigation referral sheet to OPC’s water attorney to evaluate the merits of the case. If OPC’s water attorney agrees to represent the consumer, they will prepare, educate, and advocate for the best interests of the consumer at the administrative hearing.
What must I do to avoid disconnection of my utility service for non payment of bills?
As with all complaints, the first step for the consumer is to contact the utility company and attempt to negotiate an agreement. If you cannot reach an agreement, call OPC immediately. We will use all reasonable efforts to prevent termination of service. Consumers are urged not to wait when dealing with possible termination of service. It is far more difficult to resolve complaints once service has been disconnected. It is very important to make whatever payment you can, because the utility companies take your payment history into account when negotiating.
Does OPC offer financial assistance in paying for a delinquent utility bill?
No. However, OPC will provide consumers with a list of community organizations and governmental agencies, such as the DC Energy Office, that may be helpful in this regard. The DC Energy Office administers the energy assistance program. For more information call (202) 673-6750.
Does OPC investigate complaints about long-distance telephone calls?
No. Neither OPC nor PSC has jurisdiction in these matters. Consumers with questions and/or complaints about long-distance billing shold call their respective long-distance service providers and/or the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) at 1-888-225-5322.
Will I have to pay for the services of an OPC attorney?
No. This service is provided by law and related costs are included in the office’s appropriated budget.