During the winter months, Maine’s utility companies have to follow special guidelines before shutting off anyone’s electric or gas service.The Maine Public Utilities Commission’s winter rules apply from November 15th to April 15th. It’s an effort to keep everyone safe during those dark, cold months. But there are some misconceptions.”People are under the impression that it’s illegal for us to disconnect a customer for non-payment during those months. It’s not illegal, but there’s a lot more to it. It’s a lot more complicated,” says Susan Faloon, with Bangor Hydro.Faloon says says customers should start making calls now if they think they might have trouble paying their bills this winter. Taking certain steps can keep the lights on.”We understand the economy is difficult right now, so really if our customers are showing that they are making an effort toward paying, we’re certainly going to work with that,” Faloon says. She says they can work out a payment plan, or direct customers to other agencies that can help.”If they’re not satisfied with that result, they should call the Consumer Assistance Division here at the commission, says Evelyn deFrees, with the Maine Public Utilities Commission. “No customer who takes appropriate action, in the form of these notifications, and coming up with some kind of reasonable payment, should lose gas or electric service during the winter months,” deFrees says.A variety of state plans can also provide financial assistance.”If you meet the guidelines for LIHEAP, then you would qualify for a reduced electric rate as well. So even if you don’t burn oil, we encourage our customers to contact the Penquis agencies and apply for LIHEAP,” Faloon says.They say the bottom line is, don’t just ignore the bills this winter. That will only lead to more problems.To contact the Commission’s Consumer Assistance Division, call 1-800-452-4699.