Customer Deposit Policies
When members move away or go out of business and leave unpaid electric bills, these uncollected debts place a burden on those members who do pay their bills. A customer deposit ensures payment of final bills and cannot be applied to current bills.
SMECO conducts all matters pertaining to customer deposits in compliance with regulations set by the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC). These regulations are defined in the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 20.30.01 and 20.30.02. Copies of these regulations are available upon request from the co-op.
Any residential or nonresidential member who is requested to furnish a deposit has the right to have this request reviewed by the PSC. The PSC may be contacted at the following address or telephone number.
Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC)
Consumer Affairs Division
6 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, MD 21202
Residential Customer Deposit Policies
A: SMECO may require a current or former residential customer to re-establish credit if one of the following conditions exist, per COMAR 20.30.02.03:
- The member owes an outstanding bill for a prior residential service;
- the member’s residential account has been terminated within the last 12 months due to nonpayment of a bill;
- the member failed to pay a residential bill by its due date on more than 2 occasions in the prior 12 months of service;
- the residential account is more than 2 months in arrears; or
- conditions of service or the basis on which the member’s credit was established have materially changed.
B: A residential customer who has established credit and is receiving service, but who fails to pay a bill by the expiration date of a termination of service notice, may be required by the utility to reestablish credit by depositing the amount prescribed in COMAR 20.30.02.04, in addition to paying the outstanding bill and a reasonable reconnection charge, provided that any prior deposit paid by the customer has been refunded.
New applicants for residential service will be required to establish credit with the co-op or pay a customer deposit. A new customer may establish credit by providing proof of all of the following:
- the applicant was a customer of a utility within the past 2 years;
- the applicant does not currently have any outstanding bills for utility service to any utility;
- the applicant did not have service discontinued for nonpayment of a utility bill during the last 12 months that service was provided;
- the applicant did not, on more than 2 occasions during the last 12 months that service was provided, fail to pay a utility bill when the bill became due (This information can be obtained from your previous utility by requesting a letter of credit)
If an applicant does not show good paying habits and cannot establish credit satisfactorily, then a deposit will be required. The deposit will not be less than $50 nor more than 2/12 of the estimated charge for service in the upcoming 12 months. If a customer’s actual bills differ greatly from the estimated charge for service, then the amount of the deposit will be adjusted accordingly.
Deposits of $150 or less may be paid in installments over a period of at least 8 weeks. Deposits of more than $150 may be paid over a period of at least 12 weeks. Members will be informed of these payment options at the time the deposit is required.
SMECO will pay interest on customer deposits. Interest rates change on the first of each year; call SMECO for the current rate. Once a year, a customer may provide a written request to SMECO to have the interest credited to their account; otherwise, the interest will be paid when the deposit is credited to the account or refunded.
A residential deposit plus accrued interest will be refunded after the first 16 months of service, or 12 months after the deposit has been paid in full if the customer:
- Has not had service turned off for nonpayment of a bill; and
- Has not had more than 2 past due bills; and
- Has not had a returned payment; and
- The account is not past due
If the customer does not meet these conditions, the deposit will be retained. The PSC requires SMECO to review the account each year and to refund the deposit plus accrued interest as soon as the conditions have been met.
SMECO will refund the deposit plus interest of a customer who is 60 years old or older, provided the customer:
- Requests refund of the deposit;
- Presents satisfactory proof of age; and
- Does not owe a past due bill or an uncollected bill to SMECO
When service is discontinued, SMECO will refund a residential customer deposit plus any accrued interest in excess of the member’s final bill. A transfer of service from one residence to another within the service area does not entitle a customer to a refund of the deposit.
Nonresidential Customer Deposit Policies
A: SMECO may require a current or former nonresidential member to re-establish credit if they meet one of the following criteria, per COMAR 20.30.01.03:
- The member owes an outstanding bill for a prior non-residential service;
- The member’s nonresidential account has been terminated within the last 12 months due to nonpayment of a bill;
- The member failed to pay a nonresidential bill by its due date on more than two occasions in the prior 12 months of service;
- The nonresidential account is more than 1 month in arrears; or
- Conditions of service or the basis on which the member’s credit was established has materially changed
B: A nonresidential member who has established credit and is receiving service but who fails to pay a bill by the expiration date of a termination of service notice, may be required by the utility to reestablish credit by depositing the amount prescribed in COMAR 20.30.01.04, in addition to paying the outstanding bill and a reasonable reconnection charge.
In addition to demonstrating good paying habits in the ways previously described for prospective residential members, prospective nonresidential members may also be required to establish credit by any one of the following methods:
- Showing that the applicant has been actively engaged in his or her current business as a proprietorship, partnership, or corporation for at least 4 years;
- Demonstrating creditworthiness by showing that the applicant has made payments on credit accounts when due;
- Furnishing SMECO with a satisfactory guarantee in writing;
- Furnishing an irrevocable commercial letter of credit or providing a surety bond acceptable to the co-op; or
- Otherwise establishing the applicant’s credit to the co-op’s satisfaction
If an applicant is unable to establish credit under any of the methods stated, SMECO may require a cash deposit to ensure payment of a final bill. Also, a deposit may be required if the conditions of a service change or if there is a change in the method under which the applicant establishes credit.
When a deposit is required, the deposit will not be for more than the maximum estimated charge for service for 2 consecutive billing periods, or as may reasonably be required in cases involving service for short periods or special occasions. A deposit of $100 or more may be paid in installments over a period of at least 8 weeks.
SMECO will pay interest on customer deposits. Interest rates change the first of each year; call SMECO for the current rate. Once a year, a member may provide a written request to SMECO to have the interest credited to their account; otherwise, the interest will be paid when the deposit is refunded.
A nonresidential deposit plus accrued interest will be refunded after 4 years if the member:
- Has not had service turned off for nonpayment of a bill within the last 2 years;
- Has not, on more than 2 occasions within the last 12 months, failed to pay a bill within a reasonable time after it became due;
- Is not behind in the payment of a bill;
- Has not presented a check returned by the bank in payment of a bill within the last 2 years; and
- Has not had unfavorable credit information recorded against the customer within the last 2 years
If the member does not meet these conditions at the end of the first 4 years of service, the deposit will be retained. SMECO will review the account every year and will refund the deposit plus accrued interest when the above conditions have been met.
When service is discontinued, SMECO will, within 45 days, refund the deposit plus any accrued interest in excess of the customer’s final bill. A transfer of service from one premise to another within SMECO’s service area does not entitle a customer to a refund of the deposit.
When customer-members fall behind in paying their electric bills, SMECO reserves the right to disconnect their electric service. The Cooperative makes every effort to work with customers in negotiating payment plans and only terminates service as a last resort.
Bills are due when issued and are past due after 22 days. When payment has not been received by the time the next month’s bill is issued, the past due amount will be printed on the current bill.
A separate Notice of Termination is printed and mailed for any bill having a past due amount. The notice informs the customer that service may be turned off after 14 days unless the past due amount is paid. The notice also informs the customer of steps to take to avoid having service to a residence turned off. It is the residential customer’s responsibility to notify SMECO before the scheduled turn-off date if one or more of the following conditions apply:
- The customer or an occupant of the household is 65 or older, physically handicapped, mentally impaired, or dependent on electrically operated life-support equipment. Serious illness, handicap, or need for life-support equipment must be certified by a licensed physician, physician’s assistant, or certified nurse practitioner. A form for certification is provided with the notice and must be returned to SMECO before the scheduled service turn-off date. The customer or the certifying party may call to notify SMECO of the intent to provide certification (See Restrictions on Terminations)
- The customer cannot pay for service in accordance with SMECO’s billing practices (See Alternate Payment Plans)
- The amount shown on the bill as past due is the subject of a genuine dispute such as an error in computation or the failure of SMECO to show a payment or credit (See Dispute Procedures)
If the past due amount is not paid and the customer has not notified SMECO that one of the listed conditions applies, service may be disconnected on or after the date on the termination notice.
When a SMECO employee is sent to the customer’s home to turn off service for non-payment, the customer must pay the past due amount to avoid having service turned off; the customer will be billed an additional $28 collection fee. The SMECO employee is authorized to accept payment (check or credit card) at that time. SMECO does not accept cash payments at homes or businesses.
When service is disconnected, the customer must then pay all overdue bills and a reconnection fee to have service restored. In addition, the customer may be required to pay a deposit. Payment to reconnect service must be made during normal business hours.
A reconnection fee of $36 will be charged when service is reconnected during Co-op working hours. These hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday (except holidays). A fee of $133 will be charged when reconnection is made outside the Co-op’s regular working hours. SMECO is not obligated to reconnect service after regular business hours when service has been disconnected due to nonpayment.
All fees are subject to change.
Service will be terminated when SMECO finds that a customer has tampered with the meter, bypassed the registration of the meter, or interfered with the proper metering of service.
After service is terminated, the customer must meet the following requirements to have service connected:
- Pay all damages to equipment due to interference with metering
- Pay the bill for unmetered service plus all past due debt
- Pay an investigation charge of $252
- Pay a service application fee
- Agree to comply with reasonable requirements to protect the Cooperative against further losses
- Pay a deposit in accordance with COMAR 20.30.02.03 Reestablishment of Credit
Electricians are required to contact SMECO prior to performing energized work that would require temporarily disconnecting the electric meter. If an electrician pulls the meter on your home without contacting SMECO, you will be charged for meter tampering.
Terminations Requiring Notice
After sending a member written notice at least 14 days in advance, a customer’s service may be turned off for any of the following reasons:
- Violation of, or noncompliance with, SMECO’s tariff on file with the PSC or with the applicable PSC rules (COMAR 20.50, Service Supplied by Electric Companies)
- Failure to fulfill contractual obligations for services or facilities subject to regulation by the PSC
- Failure to provide access to the Co-op’s meter and equipment located on the customer’s premises
- Failure to provide the Co-op with a deposit as authorized in COMAR 20.30.02, Residential Customer Deposits
- Failure to furnish the service, equipment, permits, certificates, or rights-of-way, as specified by SMECO as a condition to obtaining service, or if the equipment or permissions are withdrawn or terminated
Terminations Without Notice
SMECO may turn off service without notice for any of the following reasons:
- A condition on a customer’s premises is determined by the Co-op to be hazardous
- The customer’s use of equipment in a manner that adversely affects the Co-op’s equipment or service to others
- The customer’s tampering with equipment furnished and owned by the Co-op
- The customer’s unauthorized use of service by any method, including diversion of electricity around a meter
Terminations With 7 Days’ Notice
The Co-op may turn off service at a dwelling unit if service has been secured in any manner described below:
- Application was made in a fictitious name
- Application was made in the name of an individual who is not an occupant of the dwelling unit, without disclosing the individual’s actual address – Application was made in the name of a third party without disclosing that fact or without authority from the third party
- Application was made without disclosure of a material fact or by misrepresentation of a material fact
- Application was made for service to a dwelling unit where there are co-occupants if an account for that dwelling unit was previously held in the name of a current co-occupant who failed to pay or make arrangements to pay an outstanding bill or the undisputed portion of a disputed bill at the dwelling unit during a period of co-occupancy with the present applicant
- Application was made for service to a dwelling unit where there are co-occupants if the account at a prior dwelling unit of the applicant was held in the name of a current co-occupant who has failed to pay or make arrangements to pay an outstanding bill or undisputed portion of a disputed bill for service at the prior dwelling unit
- Application was made by an individual to help another occupant of a dwelling unit to avoid payment of that occupant’s prior outstanding bill
If service at a dwelling unit was secured in any manner described above, SMECO may give 7 days’ notice that service will be turned off. The notice will state the facts or circumstances upon which the Co-op bases its decision that a turn-off is justified. The notice will state the amount of any outstanding bill. The Co-op may then proceed to turn off service unless certification is received from a licensed physician, physician's assistant, or certified nurse practitioner stating that service disconnection will aggravate an existing serious illness or prevent the use of life-support equipment of any occupant of the dwelling unit.
A customer who disputes the proposed turn-off must do so in accordance with the provisions of COMAR 20.32.01.04, Dispute Procedures.
Insufficient Reasons for Termination
SMECO may not turn off service to an existing customer for the following reasons:
- Failure of a previous customer to pay for service at the premises to be served unless the current or prospective customer violates one of the provisions under Terminations with 7 Days’ Notice.
- Failure to pay:
- For goods and services provided by SMECO other than electric service;
- For service in other than a dwelling unit;
- The bill of another customer as guarantor of that other customer;
- A bill that is past due for less than 3 months if a security deposit exceeds the amount of the estimated final bill;
- Any outstanding bill that is less than $50 and is past due for less than 3 months;
- Any undercharge by SMECO for the period in excess of 4 months as described in COMAR 20.50.04.05; or
- An outstanding bill that is more than 7 years old unless the customer signed an agreement to pay the outstanding bill before the expiration of this period, or the outstanding bill is for service obtained by the customer in any manner described in COMAR 20.31.02.01.
Restrictions for Serious Illness & Life-Support Equipment
If a member or any occupant of the household is declared by a licensed physician, physician's assistant, or certified nurse practitioner to be seriously ill or dependent upon life-support equipment and the member submits a certificate to SMECO, service will not be turned off for an initial period of up to 30 days beyond the scheduled turn-off date. During that time, however, the member must enter into an agreement with the Co-op for paying delinquent and current amounts due. (See Payment Arrangements.)
The member must provide SMECO with a new completed certificate signed by the physician or certified nurse practitioner each month if the serious illness continues beyond 30 days.
Restrictions for Elderly or Handicapped Individuals
After the Notice of Termination is mailed but before the scheduled turn-off date, a residential member may provide a completed certificate stating that the member or an occupant of the household to which service will be turned off is age 65 or older or handicapped. If SMECO receives this certification, an attempt will be made to contact the member by telephoning or visiting the household and leaving a copy of the Notice of Termination.
If personal contact is made, possible sources of financial aid and the availability of alternate payment plans offered by SMECO will be discussed.
SMECO will follow the guidelines of COMAR 20.31.03.03 regarding Winter Terminations.
From November 1 through March 31, SMECO will attempt to contact members who have been mailed a Notice of Termination. SMECO will telephone the member or visit the household to be sure the notice has been received.
If the member has no telephone, SMECO will make a second visit to the household if no one is home at the time of the first visit. When a visit is made to the household, SMECO will leave a copy of the Notice of Termination and a written explanation of the member’s winter service protection rights, including payment assistance plans.
If personal contact is made, SMECO will discuss with the member possible sources of financial aid, alternate payment plans, and available payment assistance plans.
Temperature Weather Restrictions
Based on the utility’s designated weather station area, a utility may not terminate service to a residential member because of nonpayment if the 6 a.m. weather forecast predicts temperatures will reach no higher than 32º F on any one of the ensuing 3 days.
Based on the utility’s designated weather station area, a utility may not terminate service to a residential member because of nonpayment if the 6 a.m. weather forecast predicts temperatures will reach 95º F or above on any one of the ensuing 3 days.
A residential customer who wishes to dispute a bill or the reason(s) for a service disconnection is responsible for contacting SMECO. The Co-op will immediately conduct the necessary investigation and report the findings to the customer.
Until a resolution is reached on a disputed bill, the customer may be required to pay the undisputed portion of the bill. If this portion is paid, service will not be turned off. If, following investigation into a disputed bill, SMECO determines that the bill was correct, SMECO will inform the customer of this decision and require full payment of the bill or begin termination proceedings.
In a dispute concerning a proposed turn-off for reasons other than nonpayment of the bill, SMECO will permit the customer to dispute or correct the reason(s) for the turn-off. A customer’s service may not be turned off pending the dispute resolution concerning a proposed disconnection, except as provided under Terminations Without Notice. The Co-op will make a decision regarding the dispute and inform the customer of that decision.
Within seven days of being notified of SMECO’s decision, the customer may file a complaint with the Maryland Public Service Commission. The customer may mail in the complaint, which must include the following information:
- The customer’s name, address, telephone number, and account number
- The utility involved in the dispute
- The reason for the dispute
- A summary of the customer’s efforts to resolve the dispute
- Copies of bills, termination notices, correspondence, or other documentation
If the PSC determines that the customer has not negotiated in good faith with SMECO or has otherwise failed to comply with the provisions of this dispute procedure, the complaint may be dismissed and SMECO may turn off service.
A SMECO customer-member may authorize an individual, organization, or agency to receive a copy of any Notice of Termination of Service the customer might receive. The purpose of the Third-Party Notice is to give the appointed party an opportunity to investigate the situation on behalf of the customer. The third party is in no way legally responsible for the customer’s service or for paying any part of the customer’s electric bill. Call SMECO at (888) 440-3311 to receive a copy of the form to request Third-Party Notice.
All these procedures are in accordance with the Code of Maryland Regulations.
Past Due Amount
Any member whose bill shows a past due amount will be mailed a Notice of Termination. If you receive a Notice of Termination and your bill has already been paid, please call SMECO as soon as possible—do not disregard the termination notice. We will verify that your payment has been received and credited to your account. If the past due amount has not been paid, your electric service may be turned off.
If a past due amount is owed and payment is made on the bill, the amount paid will be applied to the member’s SMECO account in the following manner:
- The amount paid will be applied to overdue deposit charges owed to SMECO
- Any remainder will be applied to past due electric charges
- Any remainder will be applied to current deposit charges
- Any remainder will be applied to current electric charges
Need Help Paying Your Past-Due Energy Bill?
Contact your local Office of Home Energy Programs (OHEP) to see if you qualify for assistance. Funds are limited, so call today to make an appointment.
Southern Maryland Tri-County Community Action Committee, Inc.
Prince George’s County Department of Social Services
805 Brightseat Road, Landover
SMECO’s Patriot Connect program is designed to help veterans and active military personnel who may be having a difficult time transitioning back into the community.