The cold season is upon us, and according to the Public Utility Commission, utility shutoffs are on the rise. More and more people seem to be unable to pay their bills. But now the Attorney General's office is telling consumers, double check those contracts.

It's cold outside, and that means many of the first home heating bills will be hitting customers soon. What a shock for those people who locked in during the summer time when oil was above $4 a gallon. Now the price is well below $3 dollars a gallon. But even if you are locked in to a contract, there may be a way out.

A new report shows utility shutoffs have risen 20 percent in Pennsylvania over the last year. But there may be a way out of those high locked in prices.

There are three basic contracts. The first one calls for delivery of a certain number of gallons of fuel at that fixed price. The second, sets a maximum price but allows for the price to adjust downward if the current price is lower. The third, budgets the money over a year period, so you can spread out those tough winter costs during the entire year.

Knowing the specifics of your contract can save you some big bucks.

"Carefully review the terms of the agreement to see if the price can be adjusted downward. Consumers may also want to contact their heating oil supplier to see if there contract can be re-negotiated," said Attorney General Tom Corbett.

What ever your contract, know the terms and when you get get out of it. This will help you save the most amount of money.

If you find yourself in a hole and you can't pay your bills, it's easier to be straight with the utility company. There are plenty of avenues for assistance. Here are some:

Pennsylvania Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Customer Assistance Program (CAP)