Consumer Corner

 
 

 

  

Disputes  |   Hot Topics  |   Publications  |  FAQs  |  

Consumer Protection

 
 
 
 
Overall Consumer Protection
Residential users of utility services are protected by a variety of consumer protection laws and regulations, but it sometimes can be confusing to figure out what the rules are, and who to contact with a complaint. For information on consumer dispute procedures, check out our Consumer Dispute information.
 
The Maryland Public Service Commission (MD PSC) is the state agency that regulates utility companies in Maryland. For lists of these companies look in: Electric Companies, Natural Gas Companies, Private Water Companies, and Local Telephone Companies. MD PSC has broad authority over these regulated companies, and is responsible for ensuring that the utility rates are “just and reasonable,” and the services are safe, reliable and good quality.  Since these companies are monopolies, the rates, terms and conditions of utility service must be approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission, and published in Tariffs. These tariffs are available on the websites of the individual utility companies and are available in the offices of the Public Service Commission.
 
In addition to approving the utility-specific tariffs, the Maryland Public Service Commission also has consumer protection regulations that apply to the utilities. These regulations set out specific requirements for the handling of utility service applications, credit and security deposits, payment problems, terminations of service, reconnections, meters, billing and dispute procedures.
 
Maryland utility companies are NOT subject to Maryland’s consumer protection laws, such as the Consumer Protection Act Title 13, since they are monopoly companies and heavily regulated by the MD PSC.
 
For more information, check out OPC Fact Sheets. You can also read the actual regulations at Code of Maryland Regulation Title 20.
 
 
 
Electric and Gas Retail Suppliers
Maryland law permits non-regulated competitive companies to offer electricity and gas supply services to residential customers in Maryland. These companies must receive a license from the MD PSC, and must follow the Commission’s rules on marketing and solicitation, non-discrimination, contracts and termination of service.
 
Retail suppliers also are subject to Maryland’s general consumer protection laws, including the Consumer Protection Act, the Telephone Solicitation Act, and the Door-to-Door Solicitation Act. These laws prohibit deceptive and misleading actions by retail suppliers, and impose certain requirements for solicitations by phone or at your home. The Consumer Protection Division of the Office of Attorney General enforces these laws.  Howard County and Montgomery County also have agencies to enforce local consumer protection laws.
 
In the 2011 General Assembly passed a law requiring the PSC to provide supplier price information and consumer education on energy suppliers.  A PSC Work Group submitted a report in December 2011 to the PSC, and OPC expects that the PSC website will include this information in 2012.  See Public Conference PC-25 on the PSC website for more information.
 
For more information, check out OPC’s publications on Contracting for Electricity and Natural Gas Supply. You also can read the actual regulations at Code of Maryland Regulations, Title 20.
 
 
 
Wireless, Long Distance, Cable and Broadband Services
The MD PSC regulates local landline telephone service only. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) oversees long distance telephone service and Internet-based phone service (Voice Over Internet Protocol or “VOIP”). The FCC also shares consumer protection jurisdiction over wireless telephone service with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
 
Cable service and broadband services are not regulated by the MD PSC.