Update on Delaware Billing problem

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Subj: power Date: 01/18/2000 9:36:29 AM Pacific Standard Time From: Mthom1927 To: Mthom1927

Thousands got flawed utility bills

Conectiv customers jam phones By BILL YINGLING

Staff reporter 01/18/2000

As many as 8,000 Delaware Conectiv customers received flawed electric and natural gas bills during the past month because of a new computer billing system, company executives said Monday.

Thousands of other customers have called the utility in recent weeks, complaining about their bills.

The calls continued Monday with customers saying jammed telephone lines slowed their efforts to get answers.

"I'm at my wits' end," said Patricia Van Lill of Newark, who said she spent 90 minutes on the telephone Monday trying to reach a person at the company.

The Delaware Public Service Commission, which regulates the utility, has been investigating Conectiv's customer service operation.

Based upon the number of errors found in visual inspections of bills and the number of calls from customers, the company estimates no more than 3 percent of the early mailings in December contained mistakes. That number has dwindled to below 1 percent in recent weeks.

"The vast majority of these bills are correct," said Conectiv spokesman Ted Caddell.

The company, which has 1 million customers in four states, has been processing between 25,000 and 50,000 bills a day.

In Delaware, the utility has 265,000 electric and 100,000 gas customers. Caddell estimated the number of flawed bills mailed to Delaware customers to be between 4,000 and 8,000.

Caddell said there will be no late fees charged to customers as the company works through the billing system changes. Conectiv also has suspended shutting off service to delinquent customers until the billing conversion has been complete.

Gary Cohen, Conectiv's director of revenue management, said most of the computer errors affected the appearance of the new bills but did not lead to flawed calculations.

Executives said customers are not familiar with the new billing format. They said many customers also have been confused by temporary disruptions in Conectiv's billing schedule.

Many December bills include up to 10 or more days of service beyond the normal 30-day billing cycle, Cohen said. That factor could boost a customer's monthly expense.

The company will return to the traditional monthly billing cycle starting Jan. 26.

Cohen said some of the December bills have been estimated. Those estimates, when coupled with an extended billing schedule, could appear to boost a customer's monthly energy bill when in fact they may be accurate.

Caddell said overcharges caused by inaccurate estimates will be corrected the next time a Conectiv technician reads a customer's meter.

Conectiv customers who have been unable to reach a represent- ative and don't want to wait on hold or make repeated attempts to get through can leave a voice-mail message on the company's electronic phone system, Caddell said.

"The queue's pretty full at the moment, and we're working to get it pared down," he said. http://www.delawareonline.com/news/2000/jan/story201182000.html

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), January 18, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ