Facts for Consumers from the Federal Trade Commission

Utility Credit -- November 1992

My husband and I always paid our phone, gas, and electric bills promptly. Then...suddenly...he was gone. When I tried to get utility service in my own name, each company wanted me to make deposits ranging from $25 to $100. Can they do this?

Women sometimes write the Federal Trade Commission with this type of question.

Getting Utility Credit

A utility account is generally a credit account. You get service now and pay for it later. Like any other creditor, a utility company keeps a record of your payment patterns. This record is your utility credit history.

Utility credit discrimination is illegal under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA). The ECOA forbids discrimination based on your sex, marital status, race, national origin, religion, age, or because you receive public assistance income. The ECOA also contains specific rules that utility companies and other creditors must follow when evaluating their customers' credit histories.

Utility companies frequently require customers to make a deposit or to get a letter of guarantee from someone who will agree to pay the bill if the customer does not. Under the law, requiring a deposit or letter of guarantee can be the same thing as denyi

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