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Home Page > Utility Regulation > Water And Wastewater > FAQs for Customers

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FAQs: Customers

Rates & Billing

Q: Why are my rates changing?
A: Rates are set so that the utility can recover the costs incurred to provide service and the cost of operating the utility while allowing the utility an opportunity to earn a fair rate of return on its investment. Therefore, when the costs to provide service increase, rates may increase.

Q: Can my utility ask me for a deposit?
A: Yes. When a customer applies for water or wastewater service, the utility can ask that the customer establish credit by furnishing a cash deposit, a satisfactory guarantor to secure payment of bills, an irrevocable letter of credit from a bank, or a surety bond. Each utility requiring customer deposits must pay a minimum of 2 percent interest per year on the deposit. However, after a residential customer has established a satisfactory payment record and has had continuous service for 23 months, the utility must refund the customer's deposit. Customer deposits are designed to minimize the exposure of bad debt expense for the utility, and ultimately the general body of rate payers. Historically, the FPSC has set customer deposits equal to two months of billing based on average consumption. See Rule 25-30.311 , Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.), for additional information.

Q: Can my utility charge me a late payment charge and/or bad check charges?
A: Yes. Late payment charges and bad check charges are allowed. However, these charges must first be approved by the FPSC and disclosed in the utility’s tariff.

Q: I want to pay my bill with a credit card, but the utility is going to charge me an additional fee, is that okay?
A: Yes. A credit card processing charge is allowed. However, it must first be approved by the FPSC and disclosed in the utility’s tariff.

Q: Why was my service disconnected?
A: If payment is not made by the due date on the bill, service may be discontinued, provided the company sends a written notice that the account is delinquent and subject to interruption of service. The notice should allow the customer at least 5 business days to remedy any deficiency. However, service cannot be discontinued or withheld because a previous occupant did not pay the bill.

Q: What is the difference between a base facility charge and a gallonage charge?
A: The base facility charge is a flat charge that recovers the fixed costs of utility service and remains the same each month regardless of consumption. The gallonage charge recovers the variable costs associated with the utility service such as electricity, chemicals, and labor.

Q: Do I have any input when my utility asks for a rate increase?
A: Yes. As part of the evaluation process for a utility’s rate request, FPSC staff will conduct a customer meeting to allow customers an opportunity to provide feedback about the utility and the rate setting process. Customer comments, written and oral, will be taken into consideration by the Commissioners in reaching a decision.

Q: Why does my provider sometimes allow water to just flow down the street?
A: In order to maintain water quality, many times a system requires “flushing.” Flushing is a process that rapidly removes water from the utility’s water piping system. Flushing uses water force to scour out materials that accumulate in the lines.

Q: I received a notice that there will be a customer meeting with FPSC representatives to discuss my rate increase, if I attend will my comments even matter?
A: Yes. By Rule the FPSC must determine the quality of service provided by a utility, and part of quality of service is the utility’s attempt to address customer satisfaction. The customer meeting is to receive customer comments regarding the quality of service, the requested rate increase, or any other matter that the customers’ feel are important. Customer comments are placed on the correspondence side of the docket file and are taken into consideration by the Commissioners in reaching their decision.

Q: I cannot attend the customer meeting with FPSC representatives to discuss my rate increase, how can I get my comments on the record?
A: Any person who wants to comment or provide information to the FPSC regarding a pending rate case may do so in writing. Written comments should be mailed to: Florida Public Service Commission, Office of Commission Clerk, 2540 Shumard Oak Boulevard, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0850. The FPSC will also accept emailed comments at contact@psc.state.fl.us. Customer comments are placed on the correspondence side of the docket file and are taken into consideration by the Commissioners in reaching their decision.

Q: I received a notice that my water and/or wastewater company applied for a Staff Assisted Rate Case (SARC), what does that mean?
A: A SARC is a process where the FPSC staff assists small water and wastewater utilities with rate a relief request. Staff’s assistance usually eliminates the utility’s need to hire outside accountants and engineers. This helps reduce rate case expenses that could be passed on to the customers.

Q: How often is the utility required to read my meter?
A: The utility company is required to read the customer's meter and send bills at regular intervals. Most utilities bill monthly for service; however, a few utilities bill bimonthly or quarterly.

Q: I received a bill that had estimated charges, is that allowed?
A: Yes. Pursuant to Rule 25-30.335, Customer Billing, when a utility is unable to obtain an actual meter read, estimated bills may be provided. If the utility estimates a bill, the bill statement shall prominently show the word “Estimated” on the face of the bill. The utility is obligated to timely correct any problems within the utility’s control causing the need to estimate bills. In no event shall a utility provide an estimated bill to any one customer more than four times in any 12-month period due to circumstances that are within the utility’s control and service obligations. Upon issuance of a second estimated bill in a 6 month period, the utility shall provide the customer with an explicit written explanation for the estimation, along with the utility contact information and the FPSC’s toll-free complaint number, 1- (800)-342-3552. The utility is also required to maintain records, for a minimum of two years, detailing the number, frequency, and causes of estimated bills, which shall be made available upon request to the FPSC or to any party of a rate proceeding.

Q: Why do I have to pay a base facility charge when I am away for months at a time?
A: In Florida, rates are set to recover the cost and maintenance of the facilities, which includes the water and/or wastewater plant, distribution lines from the plant to your residence, your meter, lift stations, etc. In addition, rates allow the utility to recover prudent costs of billing, meter reading, salaries, rents, chemicals, testing, etc. The water and wastewater treatment plant and lines that serve your home must be continually maintained to ensure they function properly everyday. The utility faces costs to maintain the system and to ensure service is available whenever you turn on a faucet. While you may not require service every day of the year, service must be available at your demand. The utility incurs these costs whether you are in residence or not. If seasonal customers were not charged, the rates paid by year-round customers would be higher.

Q: I think my meter is inaccurate, what can I do?
A: A customer who suspects that their meter is not accurately measuring water consumption may request that the utility perform a field test of the water meter. To witness the field test, the FPSC advises customers to make an appointment with the utility’s representative. The utility will perform the field test at no charge. If the customer is not satisfied with the results of the field test, he or she can make a written request for a bench test. The utility is allowed to charge a fee to defray the cost of the bench test.

Q: What should I do if I think my bill is incorrect?
A: Contact your provider as soon as possible. If you believe you need the FPSC’s help in resolving a billing issue you may contact the FPSC. If you want to file an online complaint, you can do that through our online complaint form. Once we receive your submission, our Consumer Assistance Bureau will contact the utility on your behalf.

Q: Who is responsible for paying for water when a leak is found?
A: The customer is responsible for any leaks on the customer’s side of the water meter. If the leak is on the customer's side of the meter, the customer can be billed for the consumption of the water and any other related wastewater charges. The utility is under no obligation to show how the water was consumed once it has passed through the meter. The utility is obligated to make sure the meter is working correctly and that accurate readings are being taken.

Q: I filed a complaint with my provider, but I am not satisfied with the response, who should I call?
A: If you are not satisfied with the utility's action, you may contact the FPSC. If you want to file an online complaint, you can do that through our online complaint form. Once we receive your submission, our Consumer Assistance Bureau will contact the utility company on your behalf.

Q: What is the Office of Public Counsel’s role in a rate case?
A: The Office of Public Counsel (OPC) has been established by the Florida Legislature to represent the customers of utilities that are under the jurisdiction of the FPSC. OPC is an advocate for consumers before the FPSC.

Water Quality

Q: I think my water quality is horrible, what can I do?
A: Contact your provider and discuss the matter with them. You may also contact the Florida Department of Environmental Protection at www.dep.state.fl.us.

Q: I thought the FPSC regulated my provider, why was I told to contact the DEP?
A: The FPSC is responsible for the economic regulation of investor-owned water and/or wastewater facilities in certain counties throughout the state, assuring adequate service and setting just, reasonable, compensatory, and nondiscriminatory rates. Environmental regulation of water and/or wastewater utilities in areas such as water withdrawal permits, sewage disposal and health and safety standards is enforced by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Water Management Districts, and local county health agencies.