Rights and Responsibilities
Your Rights and Responsibilities As A Residential Telephone Company Customer
As a residential telephone company customer, you have many important rights and responsibilities. They make sure you and the telephone company deal fairly with each other.
The Palmerton Telephone Company has the responsibility to honor your rights. The information is based on the regulations of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. If you have questions or cannot understand any of the information presented here, call the company or the Bureau of Consumer Services at the Public Utility Commission (1-800-782-1110) for help.
APPLYING FOR SERVICE
When you apply for residential telephone service, you have a right to the following:
• a full explanation of the company’s credit and deposit rules
• a full explanation of all available services and equipment options and their prices beginning with the lowest priced service available. The company will send you a written price list if you ask.
You may be required to pay a security deposit. The decision to charge you a deposit must be based only on your credit history. The company may not require a deposit on the basis of where you live, your race, religion, gender, age if over 18, ethnic background, or marital status.
The telephone company will provide residential telephone service without requiring a deposit if you meet one of the following:
• You have a good payment history with a local exchange carrier (local telephone company). Or, you have a good payment history with another utility. (You must give the company permission to check your payment history with other utilities).
• You own property, have entered into an agreement to purchase real estate in the areas served by the company, or have at least a one-year lease at a property serviced by the company. However, you cannot have a poor payment history as a telephone customer within the past two years.
• You can provide information and proof that you are a good credit risk by providing credit cards and/or employment history. You cannot be considered a poor credit risk simply because you have never had credit.
If a credit investigation is expected to take longer than three business days, the company must provide service at least until it completes its investigation. If you have to pay a deposit, the company must tell you the reason in writing.
Before providing service the company may require that you pay or make a payment agreement to pay any outstanding residential telephone bills you may owe from within the last four years. You may not be held responsible for another person’s bill unless a court or the PUC decides you are responsible.
The company may require a security deposit if you:
• Pay two telephone bills in a row late or you pay more than two bills late within a year. Before requiring a deposit, the company must send you a notice that you might have to pay a deposit if you continue to pay your bills late.
• Have service suspended or terminated for non-payment and want to have your service restored.
PAYING THE SECURITY DEPOSIT
Your cash deposit cannot be more than your average two month bill during the past 12 months including toll charges. You must pay the deposit within 20 days after the company requests it.
For new customers, the amount of the deposit cannot be greater than an average two month bill for other customers in your exchange. You will have to pay half the deposit before you get service and the balance within 30 days.
THIRD PARTY GUARANTEE
Instead of paying a cash deposit, another Palmerton Telephone Co. customer who has met or can meet the credit standards may provide a written guarantee to cover payment equal to the cash deposit required. The individual providing the guarantee becomes responsible for payment of the deposit if you don’t pay the monthly bills or leave an unpaid final bill. The person’s responsibility ends when you establish satisfactory credit.
Your deposit plus annual interest will be returned to you when you have established credit. You may choose to have your deposit applied to your account or you may choose to receive a cash refund. Credit will be considered when you have paid bills:
• for 12 months in a row without having service suspended or terminated; and
• without having paid bills after the due date on more than two occasions; and
• your bill is not presently overdue.
If your service is terminated or permanently disconnected, your deposit and interest will be applied to any amount you owe and the rest will be returned to you.
YOUR TELEPHONE BILL
DESCRIPTION OF THE BILL
The company is to mail a bill for telephone service every month. The bill separates the monthly charges into three general categories:
1. Basic Service (Local Exchange Service)
2. Toll Service
3. Non-Basic Service
You may pay your bill in any reasonable manner including personal check unless you have had a check returned for insufficient funds within the past year. The company may charge a handling fee if your check is returned unless you stopped payment on the check because you had a billing dispute. You may mail your payment to the company office or pay at any of our payment center locations.
You have 20 days from the date the bill is mailed to pay. If you plan to be away from home for long periods of time, make arrangements for paying your telephone bills. If you do not make arrangements for paying your bills, your telephone service could be suspended.
The company may not charge late payment fees unless your payment is received more than 5 days after the due date.
This charge may not be more than 1.25 percent per month or 15 percent per year. In addition, the company may not mail or deliver notice of suspension until at least 5 days after the stated due date.
If you pay only a part of your bill, the amount you pay may be applied to the past due sections in the order listed below before being applied to the current bill.
1. Basic service charges
2. Toll service charges
3. Non-basic service charges
You may want to have the company apply your payment differently if you think your service might be suspended against your will. By doing this, you can protect your ability to make local calls. If you wish to apply your payment differently than listed above, you must let the company know in writing or by working out a payment agreement with the company.
If you think there is an error on you bill, call the business office. The number is listed on the back of the first page of your telephone bill. There is no charge for calls to the business office
INTERRUPTION OF SERVICE
When the telephone company knows in advance that they will need to interrupt service to make repairs or for safety reasons, the company must try to notify customers of the reason for the interruption and how long they expect it to last.
REFUNDS FOR SERVICE INTERRUPTIONS
If telephone service is interrupted without notice, you should contact the company about the service problem. If service remains off for a period of at least 24 hours after you have notified the company, you may have a right to a refund.
IF YOU MOVE
If you want to discontinue your service, call or write the business office at least five (5) days before the date you want the service disconnected. This will prevent the company from billing your for service that you do not want.
SUSPENSION OF SERVICE
The company may suspend your telephone service for any of the following reasons:
• You do not pay your bill. If you dispute part of your bill, you must notify the company. The company may not suspend your service if you do not pay the part that you dispute.
• You do not pay a security deposit, provide a third-party guarantee, or give the company information to establish your credit.
• You don’t allow the company access for maintenance or repair of company equipment.
• You use your telephone service to interfere with or harm other customer’s service.
• You do not pay according to a payment agreement.
• You give false or misleading information to get service.
• You use your telephone to threaten the safety of any person or the ability of the company to deliver telephone service.
• You still owe the company for service furnished in your name within the past four years.
The telephone company may not suspend basic (local) telephone service because you fail to pay charges for nonbasic service. Also, the company may not suspend basic (local) service because you fail to pay charges for (toll) interexchange service, unless the company is technically not able to suspend one without also suspending the other. If you are threatened with suspension of your telephone service, you may protect your basic service by paying the amount you owe for that service. The company may suspend you toll and/or non-basic service but you will still be able to make local calls.
If the company is going to suspend your service, it will mail a written suspension notice to you at least 7 days before the date your service is to be suspended. The notice will tell you the reason for the proposed suspension and the date service will be suspended. It will tell you what action you can take to avoid suspension.
The notice will break down the total amount you owe into basic, non-basic, and toll charges. The charges for each type service will be treated separately so you will know what amount must be paid to keep each service.
The company is not required to give you written notice if you do not keep a PUC payment agreement set up to avoid suspension. In this case, the company must try to contact you personally at least 24 hours before suspending your service.
MEDICAL EMERGENCY PROCEDURE
If there’s a medical emergency in your household which will be affected by the suspension of telephone service, the suspension may be postponed. A physician must tell the company how suspension of service will worsen the serious medical condition. The suspension will be postponed for a maximum of 30 days. (Postponement may be renewed for 30 days, if necessary).
If the suspension is postponed, you must still pay your bill on time for services provided after the postponement date and limit your toll calls to $25.00.
If you need more information, call the company’s business office.
REMEMBER – TO AVOID HAVING TELEPHONE SERVICE SUSPENDED, CONTACT THE COMPANY BEFORE THE SUSPENSION DATE WITH ANY BILLING DISPUTE OR PAYMENT PROBLEM.
DAYS SUSPENSION IS NOT ALLOWED
The telephone company may not suspend service:
• On a Saturday or Sunday.
• On a bank Holiday.
• On a holiday observed by the company (any day when the business office of the company is closed).
GETTING SERVICE BACK ON
The company will restore suspended telephone service if:
• You pay the overdue bill and the reconnection fee in full; or
• You pay the amount that is due according to a payment agreement and the reconnection fee; or
• You make a payment agreement with the company to spread out the payments of the outstanding charges and the reconnection fee;
• You stop the unauthorized practice for which service was suspended plus make full payment of the reconnection fee; or
• You pay the amount that you owe for basic (local) service. The company will restore your local service but your toll and/ or non-basic services will remain suspended until you make arrangements to pay what you owe for them.
After you have done one of the above, the company will restore your service by the end of the first full working day.
If service is suspended, you will have to pay a reconnection fee. You may pay the reconnection fee as part of a payment agreement. The company may also require that you pay a security deposit. You may make payment to have service restored at an authorized payment agency. After you make the payment, you must call the company so your service can be restored.
THIRD PARTY NOTIFICATION
The Third Party Notification Program protects individuals who may be away from home for long periods of time or those who may not understand the company’s billing and payment practices. This program allows you to choose a person who is willing to receive a notice if your service is subject to suspension or termination. Please remember, however, that this person does not have the responsibility of paying your telephone bill.
TERMINATION OF SERVICE
After telephone service is suspended, the company’s next step is to mail you a termination notice. the termination notice will give you ten days before your service will be terminated. The notice will inform you what you can do to restore your service. You should contact the company as soon as you receive this notice.
REMEMBER – SUSPENSION OF SERVICE IS A TEMPORARY INTERRUPTION OF YOUR SERVICE. TERMINATION IS A MORE PERMANENT END OR CESSATION OF TELEPHONE SERVICE. IF YOUR SERVICE IS TERMINATED, YOU MUST REAPPLY FOR SERVICE AS IF YOU WERE A NEW APPLICANT. IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BECAUSE THE COST OF HAVING SERVICE RESTORED AFTER “TERMINATION” IS HIGHER THAN THE COST OF RESTORING SERVICE AFTER “SUSPENSION”.
CONTACTING THE COMPANY WITH A DISPUTE
You have the right to question or dispute any telephone problem you may have. You should file a dispute before your service is suspended or terminated.
Once you register a dispute, the company must do all of the following:
• Investigate your dispute thoroughly.
• Stop suspension or termination of service because you haven’t paid the disputed amounts.
• Give you information to help you make an informed judgment about your account.
• Within thirty days give you a report of the investigation including the company’s final position on the matter. You have the right to ask for the report in writing.
• Inform you of your right to contact the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC).
While your dispute is pending, you must pay all charges on your bill that you don not dispute.
CONTACTING THE PUC
FILING AN INFORMAL COMPLAINT
If you are not satisfied with the company’s answer to your problem,
you have the right to file an informal complaint with the Public Utility Commission. In order to protect your rights, you should call or write the PUC within ten days of the date the company mailed its report to you.
The Bureau will need the following information:
• Your name, address, and telephone number.
• The name of your telephone company.
• A description of the problem.
• What action the company took.
• What you want done.
The Bureau of Consumer Services will conduct its own investigation of your complaint and will get back with the results.
The Bureau of Consumer Services can be reached at the telephone number or address below:
1-800-782-1110 (toll free)
P.A. Public Utility Commission
P.O. Box 3265
Harrisburg, PA 17105-3265
FILING A FORMAL COMPLAINT
If you disagree with the Bureau of Consumer Services’ decision, you have the right to appeal that decision by filing a formal complaint. The company also has the right to appeal the decision. Again, to safeguard your rights, you must tell the PUC in writing that you want to appeal. You must notify the PUC within 10 days from the date of the decision. Filing a formal complaint gives you the right to a hearing with a PUC judge.
APPLICANT Any person who applies for residential service. This does not include someone who requests a transfer of service within the local company’s service area.
BILLING PERIOD A period of not less than 26 days and not more than 35 days.
DELINQUENT ACCOUNT Charges for telephone service which have not been paid in full by the due date stated on the bill or by another agreed upon date.
DISCONTINUATION OF SERVICE The temporary or permanent ending of service at the request of the customer.
DISPUTE A disagreement between an applicant, a customer or someone representing a customer and the company. The disagreement may be over areas such as credit, deposits, billing errors, etc.
INTEREXCHANGE CARRIER Any public utility which provides long distance service, but does not provide local telephone service.
INTEREXCHANGE SERVICE The transmission of messages or communications by telephone between points outside a local calling area.
LOCAL EXCHANGE CARRIER Any public utility which provides local service, but can also provide long distance telephone service.
LOCAL EXCHANGE SERVICE The transmission of messages or communications by telephone between points within a local calling area.
NON-BASIC SERVICE Any service or product other than telephone service including the sale or lease of telephone equipment, inside wire maintenance plans, repair service, premises visits for service installation and Custom Calling services.
PAYMENT AGREEMENT A mutually satisfactory agreement between the customer and the local exchange carrier allowing the customer to pay the unpaid balance of an account with one or more payments over a reasonable period.
SUSPENSION OF SERVICE Temporary ending of service without the consent of the customer.
TERMINATION OF SERVICE Permanent ending of service after a suspension without the consent of the customer.