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The Public Advocate and his Staff of eight regularly respond to concerns brought directly to the Office's in Hallowell by walk-in consumers, by email or by mail. Although it is the Consumer Assistance Division within the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that has formal complaint processing authority under Maine laws, we often intercede for utility consumers on an informal basis, seeking the reconnection of power or the resolution of a billing dispute with a Maine utility. Public Advocate Staff often work closely with citizen groups in bringing to the PUC petitions for improved utility service or for utility system expansions.
Where to Go For Help When the Public Utilities Commission issues its decision in a case, now what options do you have?
If you are dissatisfied with a Commission Order, there are two ways to try to seek a different outcome: a request for reconsideration, or an appeal to the Law Court. Both require that you be a party to the proceeding. Instructions for pursuing each option are outlined below.
A. Reconsideration – When you seek reconsideration, you are asking the Commission to review its own decision and reach a different outcome. To seek reconsideration, within 20 days of the written Order, you must file a petition with the Commission.
- Prepare a letter to the Commission describing your reasons for seeking reconsideration.
- Log in to CMS (https://mpuc-cms.maine.gov/CQM.Public.WebUI/ExternalHome.aspx) using your registered user account information.
- Select the case file option from the menu on the left and then the “Submit New Case or Filing” option. This process is similar to other filings you may have made throughout the case.
- Select the existing case option and then fill out the information requested.
- Under the Attach Non-Confidential documents header, select the document type “Request” and document subtype “Reconsideration”.
- Upload your letter.
If the request for reconsideration is not filed within 20 days of the Order, the filing will be denied.
B. Appeal – When you appeal an Order, you are asking the Law Court to review the legality of the Commission’s decision. To appeal a Commission Order, within 21 days of on Order, you must file an appeal with the Administrative Director of the Public Utilities Commission.
- Notice of Appeal to the Law Court must follow the Maine Rules of Appellate Procedure. You can view these rules from the Maine Court's website. Scroll down to "Court Rules Continued"; there you will find the Maine Rules of Appellate Procedure.
- There is a %150 filing fee that must accompany the Notice of Appeal. Checks made payable to "Clerk of the Law Court." If an appeal is filed without the filing fee, the appeal process will nevertheless begin and the Law Court will pursue the issue of the filing fee.
- Mail the Notice of Appeal document, the filing fee and send document to:
Maine Public Utilities Commission
c/o Administrative Director
18 State House Station Augusta, ME 04333-0018
- Upon receipt of the Notice of Appeal, MPUC promptly sends the Notice, a copy of the service list, a copy of the Docket Entries and the filing fee with a cover letter to:
Clerk of the Law Court Maine Supreme Judicial Court
142 Federal Street, P.O. Box 368
Portland, Maine 04112-0368.
- The Clerk of the Law Court will send notification of receipt of the appeal, the Law Court Docket Number assigned to the appeal and the date by which the record on appeal is due to be filed with the Law Court.
If an appeal is not filed within 21 days of the Order, the decision becomes final and cannot be appealed.
Where to Go For Help When Having a Dispute With a Service Provider
Utilities – In Maine, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has jurisdiction over telephone, electric, gas and water utilities. Technically, the PUC has jurisdiction over local and instate long-distance service but not interstate service. However, many disputes involve both so the PUC will generally try to assist in resolving long-distance service disputes. They generally do not have jurisdiction over wireless companies and cable companies. Staff members can help prevent disconnection of service, assist in setting up a fair payment arrangement, give advice concerning rules that apply to utility service, and can often resolve service or billing disputes. Decisions of the Consumer Assistance Division may be appealed to the full 3-member Commission.
Cable Companies – Cable TV and Internet service providers are largely unregulated businesses. The FCC in Washington D.C. has authority to regulate cable service and there are some federal rules that govern service standards. In addition, since local municipalities periodically approve the franchise agreement with the cable operator, there may be some service standards to be enforced by your town. However, in most cases, neither your town nor the FCC will be of much help in resolving an individual dispute.
Wireless Companies – Like Cable companies, wireless companies are largely unregulated with respect to service quality and billing disputes with consumers. Only a few states have adopted service quality standards that apply to wireless companies. In Maine, as a result of a settlement with various state attorneys general, Cingular, Verizon and Sprint have agreed to provide detailed coverage maps, clearly stated contract terms, and a period of at least 14 days as a grace period for cancellation of a wireless contract. Unicel has agreed to comply with certain Maine utility consumer protection rules in exchange for being made eligible to receive federal universal service subsidies. US Cellular is currently applying for those subsidies and we expect those rules to apply to them as well. Some carriers already allow a 30 day grace period for cancellation.
Internet Services – (Dial-Up, DSL, wireless or Cable-Modem) – Another unregulated service. Even if your Internet service is provided by an affiliate of a regulated telephone company, the PUC has no jurisdiction over the Internet service, and telephone utilities are under no obligation to improve your telephone line to allow adequate dial-up or DSL Internet Service.
Maine PUC – 1-800-452-4699 – (public utility complaints and dispute resolution).
Federal Communications Commission – www.fcc.gov 1-888-225-5322 firstname.lastname@example.org – (complaints concerning cable or wireless companies – but the FCC will not investigate individual contract or billing disputes).
Maine Attorney General – 207-626-8800 email@example.com (provides consumer mediation services and may take action in the case of an unfair or deceptive practice by any business in Maine).