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Power and telephone lines crisscross our neighborhoods, and water flows into our homes. In today's modern world, these utilities have become virtual necessities. Therefore it is important to know where to find information when you have questions and whom to contact when there's a problem.

Most South Dakota consumers receive their electric power from a municipal, cooperative or investor-owned provider. If you have a quality of service or billing dispute with your electric provider, the first and best course of action is to contact the provider directly to resolve the problem. If that is unsuccessful, consumer affairs representatives at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) can assist you and your utility provider in reaching a resolution. PUC can be reached at 1-800-332-1782.

For a listing of electric providers and their contact information, visit the PUC's website at http://www.puc.sd.gov/ and select "Energy" and "Electric."

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission can help consumers understand the elements of their telephone bill or aid when billing or quality of service disputes occur. Additionally, PUC representatives provide assistance to consumers who experience quality of service issues with their wireless telecommunications service.

Billing or contractual service issues with wireless telecommunications providers should be reported to the Attorney General's Office, Division of Consumer Protection, 1-800-300-1986 or 605-773-4400. Consumers may also contact the Federal Communications Commission at http://www.fcc.gov/complaints to report concerns or complaints about telecommunications providers.

Several types of organizations provide water service in South Dakota. If you have a concern about water quality, service, or billing, contact your water supplier directly to discuss these issues. You may also wish to contact the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources for water quality questions, 605-773-3754.

As a customer of a utility service provider, you have an obligation to pay for the services you use. There may be times when you have difficulty meeting those financial obligations. Early and honest communication with the utility company is one of the best first steps you can make to work your way through the challenging situation. You should also be aware of the following helpful tools.

PLEASE NOTE: If someone calls unexpectedly claiming to be from your utility company and demanding payment, don't panic and don't send any money. Hang up and call your utility company directly to verify your account balance and report the scam. It's also helpful to report this and other imposter scams to the Attorney General's Office, Division of Consumer Protection, 1-800-300-1986 or 605-773-4400, so they can issue a public warning.

Utility information provided courtesy of the Public Utilities Commission.