Utilities : Unregulated Utilities

What are my utility service rights?
Utility issues—primarily electric, natural gas, water and telephone—are increasingly expensive necessities that are essential to the life, health, safety, welfare and economic self-sufficiency of residential consumers. Utility services are also an important component of overall housing costs for residential households.

In Ohio, private, for-profit natural gas, electric, telephone and water companies are regulated—to varying degrees—by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). The PUCO consists of five commissioners appointed by the Governor of Ohio and an administrative staff responsible for carrying out the day-to-day regulatory work of the agency.

The PUCO has deregulated some utility rates and allowed flexible pricing for other rates. However, it continues to regulate or set caps on other rates, and has adopted and enforces a wide range of consumer protection rules governing access to utility service, reliability of service, consumer protections and complaint procedures, prevention of monopolistic behavior or other antitrust abuses, safety and service standards, implementation of energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, extended payment plans for delinquent customers, and low-income bill assistance programs.

The PUCO also receives, investigates and tries to resolve consumer complaints against regulated utilities.

Many smaller utilities in Ohio are not private, for-profit, PUCO-regulated utilities. These “unregulated utilities” include:

  • rural electric cooperatives (co-ops),

  • municipal and county utilities,

  • public water and sewer districts, and

  • private sellers of propane and heating oil.

Most Ohio residential water customers are served by municipal or county utility water departments or public water and sewer districts. Furthermore, many rural customers in Ohio receive their electric service from member-owned and controlled rural electric co-ops, such as South Central Power, Buckeye Rural Electric Co-op or Guernsey-Muskingum Rural Electric Co-op. At the same time, some cities own or operate their own electric utilities, notably the public power systems in Columbus and Cleveland.

Finally, in more sparsely populated rural areas, such as Vinton and Adams Counties, many customers rely on propane or heating oil for the winter heating season. Although not regulated by the PUCO, these utility companies and bulk fuel sellers are subject to various federal and state consumer protection laws.

See also the Forms & Education tab in this section for more information.

The information in this site is not intended as legal advice.
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