Arnette says refunds are usually handled on a case-by-case basis.

Still, Verizon is sometimes required to give credit. The Maryland Public Service Commission regulates Verizon's land-line phone business, and requires the company to give credit to customers whose phones were out of service for 24 hours or more.

Comcast Cable TV is more loosely regulated.

Comcast won't give credit to customers whose cable service was disrupted during the recent power outage, says spokeswoman Alisha Martin. However, if a customer's cable remains out of service even after power is returned, Comcast will consider a credit on a "case-by-case basis," she says. The same goes for other times when service is disrupted.

Make your case by calling Comcast at 800-COMCAST.

Complain anyway If you're feeling aggrieved about a disruption in service at any time, it never hurts to complain to the company to see if it can makes things right.

Karen Leland, co-author of "Customer Service for Dummies," offers this tip: Ask the company for a credit or something else to compensate you for the inconvenience.

"If they say no, then say, 'What can you do for me?'" Leland says.

Even if the company won't provide relief, complaining could be worthwhile.

"If enough people complain, the company may get the message and change their policy for the future or take some corrective action," Leland says. "So you are not just complaining for yourself, but as a consumer in general."

Sometimes the only way to feel better is by venting.

The Public Service Commission will let consumers do just that. The regulator will hold eight meetings starting next month to hear — from customers' perspective — how the electric utilities responded to the latest outage.

The commissioners look for themes in consumer gripes to discover issues that need addressing.

eileen.ambrose@baltsun.com

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