Raleigh, North Carolina — When the electricity bill arrives, most people don’t expect it to be $200, $300 or even $26,000 higher than normal, but many have Duke Energy Progress customers. They contacted 5 On Your Side to complain about being caught off guard by bills with additional deposits without notice.
Mary Ann Schultz says she opened her bill to find it included an unexpected $458 deposit.
“I said, ‘God, haven’t I paid the bill? Am I losing my mind? “, she said.
Jeff Brooks of Duke Energy Progress states that “deposit policies exist to protect customers whose accounts are in good standing from those whose accounts may not be in good standing”. He says more customers are being hit with deposits because the company is now automatically reviewing their accounts.
Initially, Brooks told us that all accounts had to undergo a credit history review, as the company assessed the need for a deposit.
Now they say the credit history check is only for new customers and business customers – to determine if a deposit is needed.
Existing customers could see a deposit added to their bill if they have any of the following triggers:
- two or more late payments, even just one day
- stop notice for non-payment or
- unsuccessful payments, for example for insufficient funds.
Many customers who complained to 5 On Your Side said they had never been late on a payment, had a good payment history, or always paid their bill.
“It’s like a slap in the face,” Schulz said.
Part of the trigger for Schulz’s filing fee was a 2012 bankruptcy filing after Hurricane Sandy ripped his dream home into the ocean, ruining his credit.
“(Duke Energy Progress) said, ‘Well, we sent your information to Experian, and according to them, they said we should get a security deposit,'” Schulz said, adding that she thinks the practice is unfair.
TCG Legacy, a Garner printing, packaging and labeling business, was hit with a $41,000 bill, according to administrative assistant Wendy Majewski. Although the company uses a lot of energy for daily printing – around $15,000 a month – the $41,000 bill was shocking.
“It was there, (a) $26,000 deposit right down,” Majewski said. “I think a phone call was warranted rather than all of a sudden a $26,000 bill. A conversation between us and them – anything would have been better than the shock of opening a bill with that amount owed to them .”
Duke Energy Progress officials say that with millions of customers, the bill is the easiest way to reach everyone. They add that residential customer deposits earn 8% interest after 90 days, but can be refunded if kept in good standing for 12 months.
Customers who are concerned about their credit rating can check it for free each year with each of the three major credit bureaus – Experian, Transunion and Equifax. best to go to annualcreditreport.com and check the report every four months. Besides electricity bills, credit reports can also affect loans, the amount of insurance, whether a landlord rents you a house, and this could determine whether an employer offers you a job.