Can Electric Companies Easily Shut Off Your Electric Service?

by jsgs45 on October 1, 2012

Generally it is not something I would say is easy in regards to the ability for an electric company to shut your power off.

The basic reasons why an electric company can turn off your electric service are:

  • If their is a scheduled brownout in order to provide enough power on the grid during peak hours in the day.
  • If you failed to pay your electric bill and were then sent a notice in the mail warning of potential shut-off if bill is not paid.
  • If you have been tampering with your electric meter
  • If you have been stealing electricity from the utility
  • If they mistakingly turned off your power because non-payment was confused with a different customer who lived nearby.

I have seen and read about all of these issues related to why and how an electric company can turn off your power. My neighbor was a recipient of multiple electric power shut-offs due to being mistaken as the non-paying customer meter simply because the customer in default was about half a mile down on a dirt road behind his house. On the 3rd time it was about to happen again and knowing all the headaches and issues that would ensue from getting his electricity service forcibly turned off he came out to the meter ahead of the electric utility company with his gun. When the pole and wire guys made it to his electric pole he pointed the barrel of the gun at them and told them to turn around and go check their information because they had the wrong meter. The end result of this confrontation was that he has never again had his electric meter turned off again from a failure of the meter company to accurately find the correct meter to turn off. I bet the utility company even has a reminder note next to this guys information in their system to prevent any future mistakes from happening again.

Scheduled brownouts usually happen in the summer during peak time periods such as noon and often effect residential homes for just a 30 minute interval or even less. These brownouts roll through neighborhoods and allow a large metro city to get the needed electricity demanded by large industrial and commercial businesses. I see rolling blackout as a necessary way sometimes of keeping the economy rolling which ultimately pays for you and me to work. The small amount of time electric service is turned off is something I can live with but in the future this will likely be unnecessary as more companies are fitting their facilities with on-site generation power that kicks on during peak intervals in the day.

If you are the bad check writing customer who is constantly defaulting on rental furniture and TV’s and a host of other things you are 100% likely to default on one of your electric service bills. You are more likely to have prepaid electric service because of bad credit so it isn’t exactly defaulting but rather refusing to prepay for another month of electric service. What legally is supposed to happen is that the provider is required to send out a notice or warning in the mail that is separate from your electric bill that warns that if payment is not received in 5 days your electricity service will be turned off. Some companies send these out too soon or without enough heads up time and service gets turned off a little sooner than predicted. These situations can be avoided by simply not being a complete and total fool when it comes to how you budget and spend your money. If you move in to an apartment with a person who does drugs or has unpredictable behavior you can assume they will eventually get kicked out or leave and now you are faced with paying 100% of all the utility bills. You need to plan for the inevitable break-up of your 23rd boyfriend or girlfriend and have money stored away specifically to keep services like electric service running during these times. You will of course want to have some reserve money for paying 100% of the rent also until you can find a new roommate.

Kids, misfits, and possibly you may find yourself tampering with your electric meter. There have been news reports of people who are ant-smart meter tampering with these meters and actually trying to cause them to malfunction and catch fire. Some of these meters are in fact faulty and catch fire on their own. In many cases it can be found that people were the cause of a meter going haywire and even rotating usage numbers in reverse. If you have an off-grid solar or wind turbine setup that is hooked into your on-grid power you can actually legally get that created power to turn the consumption numbers back in your meter. If you do not have an alternative off-grid power system you cannot legally mess with your electric meter and turn back  the dials or digitally alter a digital meters usage numbers. An electric provider can turn you off with no warning if someone has been altering or tampering with your electric meter and they will likely ask questions later. If it can be proven that you or someone in your household tampered with the electric meter criminal charges could possibly be brought against you or your family member.

There are some horrifying pictures out there on the internet of the demise of people who attempted to steal electricity by hooking directly into the electric lines near their house. As dangerous as it is to mess with electricity lines I can attest to the fact that it happens all the time. The fraud committed against electric companies by stealing power is a huge problem and comes with huge criminal penalties and charges not to mention the risk to your life. I have seen pictures where the person basically looked like a burnt hotdog that had been sitting in a fire for a few minutes. You do not want to attempt to ever steal electricity from the utility company for many reasons and risk to life being number one.

I hope these points give you a little knowledge on how, when, and why and electric utility can lawfully turn off your electricity service. If you feel you have had your electric service turned off unlawfully be sure to file a formal complaint to the PUC after trying to first rectify the matter directly with your electric company. It may not hurt to file a complaint even if your electric company gets you turned on simply because you were harmed and simply turning power back on after it was turned off is not enough to fix such an inconvenience to your normal life.


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