Public Utilities Law and Legal Definition

A public utility is a business or service, which may be publicly or privately owned, engaged in supplying the public generally with some commodity or service, such as electricity, gas, water, transportation, or telephone or telegraph service. Privately owned public utilities most often operate within a designated area through an exclusive franchise granted by the legislature, public service commission, or other regulatory agency, and their operation is strictly regulated by the franchisor. Public utilities may be required to file rate schedules with a public service commission. Usually, there must be an approval by the regulatory body before such rates or proposed changes in rates may take effect.