|3 ways to dispute
utility bills, cable bills
"Most consumers don't know this, but they can call
their local franchising cable board. That's the agency that has
the ability and authority to adjudicate public complaints," says
Not all municipalities or towns have a cable board. So, try calling the clerk of the county or clerk of the city in your area to find out who is responsible for cable complaints.
In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the information technology
department has a direct link to Comcast as a franchise authority,
says spokeswoman Diana Scott.
"We have a special line established," Scott says. "We get the person's information, we document it and that information is sent to a specific person at Comcast. Then Comcast contacts us with the resolution."
A visit to the attorney general's office may or may
not help. The procedure for handling complaints varies with each
office. Some offices, depending on the type of utility, might refer
you to other state regulators, and others may attempt to mediate
the dispute between you and the company themselves.
3. Try national and federal organizations.
Consumers can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau,
or BBB, a private nonprofit organization that monitors and reports
marketplace activities to the public. The bureau sends the consumer's
complaints to the company.
"If we have not heard from the company in 30 days,
we close the case and suggest small claims court," says spokeswoman
According to the BBB, it cannot force a reply from
the company and it cannot administer sanctions. It can make a note
of the company's unwillingness to respond in the company's reliability
report that's provided to the public.
The U.S. government can tackle some of your problems.
Telecommunications issues can be handled by contacting
the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC.
Consumers can file an informal complaint with the
FCC and, if determined appropriate, the commission will send the
complaint to the company or companies named. The FCC allows telephone
companies only 45 days from receiving the complaint to respond to
you and to provide a copy to the commission. The FCC reviews the
response but doesn't issue a ruling or decision.
If the company's response doesn't satisfy you, you
can make a formal complaint. This will involve hiring a lawyer and
paying a complaint fee of $180. File this type of dispute within
six months of receiving the response to the informal complaint.
Consumers can also contact the Federal Trade Commission,
or FTC, but the FTC's help depends on the circumstances. According
to spokesman Mitch Katz, the FTC only gets involved if a charge
the consumer did not authorize is placed on the bill.