baltimoresun.com

« Black & Decker's Archibald's perks still sweet | Main | AEI speaker to mention taxes as deficit solver »

April 14, 2011

Deposit letter gets BGE bad publicity

BGE told WBAL it changed how it notifies late-paying customers about security-deposit requirements. When you miss a few bills BGE can seek a deposit, which seems kind of perverse. As a credit-risk tool I wonder how effective it is. Seems like the time to seek a security deposit is when the customer is solvent, not when s/he's already missing payments.

BGE told WBAL it used to notify customers about the deposits by phone and bill messages, not by separate letters. Seems at least like the new method is getting people's attention. WBAL:

Harriet Sellman said she recently received a letter from BGE that made her angry and sick, saying she isn't sure how she is going to pay the extra money the company is asking for in the form of a security deposit.

"They decided we needed to pay a $532 security deposit which they estimate is two months of our estimated service costs," Sellman said. "I have been late. We're trying very hard to make do on one paycheck right now."

Posted by Jay Hancock at 11:12 AM | | Comments (23)
Categories: BGE/electricity
        

Comments

I saw this segment on WBAL. The person who was past due on her BGE bill and was complaining about having to pay the BGE deposit. The camera footage revealed that she had two flat screen TVs in her house. Flat screens are new and hundreds of dollars -- you can get a used TV for $25 at a flea market. People are buying luxury items with money due on necessities like heat and electriicty. Why should any company give this person credit? If she has someone buying the TVs for her, why doesn't that person pay her utility bill?

A few months ago BGE was on our property to do some maintenance. We discovered later that day that their enormous truck backed into my husband's car and did significant damage. But because no one saw this happen (except, presumably, the driver and the workmen, who didn't report it) they accepted no liability. I thought of all the thousands of dollars we have paid BGE over 35 years as customers and did a slow burn.

This new deposit thing they're doing for utilities seems weird to me. It makes sense to ask for a deposit when people are renting an asset, but with power or something like internet service, can't the provider simply cut the person off until they pay up? Seems like asking for anything more than a one month deposit is unnecessary.

@Anon -- I feel the same way. I live in a Section 8 community (although we pay the rent ourselves) right now and the people in our building habitually refuse to pay rent. Yet somehow they always seem to have nice, big tvs and loud surround sound systems...

I got the same letter this week and I'm pretty upset about it, especially since I was finally about to pay down my bills and get back to paying BGE on time, and now with this extra fee there's no way I'll be able to do that. I'm really thinking about seeing if I can just pay my balance and leave BGE for a competitor both to avoid paying this deposit and to show them that this is not a good policy. Anyone have any suggestions for alternatives or any experiences with dealing with this policy?

I got the same damn letter today. Don't they know people are having a hard time right now. Myself,husband and son have been laid off and I have been late on my payments and have paid a LATE charge and have always paid it before the shut off. Not all of us are out buying new things,we had the items before the lay off. Sure I could sell my big screen TV but why should I..Like I said I pay a late charge and do get my bill paid.BGE is high enough and keeps going up and up ! I agree with the comment by Al.. I think I will go with someone else. BGE won't get no deposit out of me.

You cannot avoid a deposit requirement by switching suppliers. While you may certainly pick a different supplier of the commodity ( electric or gas), BGE will still be your distribution company and BGE will still send you a bill. Even if you pick a different supplier for the commodity, since BGE almost always buys the receivables of the commodity supplier, BGE will be billing you for the gas and electric as well. Therefore, if you don't pay or you consistently make late payments on the commodity portion of the bill, BGE may still impose the increased deposit requirement on you. However, if you believe that BGE has its facts wrong or is acting unreasonably, I would suggest filing a complaint at the Public Service Commission.

For the idiot who claims he saw that a BGE customer on WBAL TV with "two flat screen TV's"...and he believes that that person is using her money to buy luxury items instead of paying her bills....Well this is the problem, isn't it??!?
It seems that people like this "Anonymous"has the right to judge other people... I saw that interview too, and I didn't see any "flat screen tv's. But if she did have that, how does this "M. Anonymous" know where she got them, They could have been a gift. They could have been purchased BEFORE her husband got laid off, and they became a one check household...The point is, that people like this "Mr. Anonymous"---Really ought to "mind his own business" and spend his time judging himself, and his affairs, and NOT someone else...

Frank

I recently became seperated and moved into an apartment. BGE decided that I also had to pay a deposit of $310. I was living in my previous residence, which is still in my name, for 9 years. Sure, I got a few turn off notices, but never had service shut off. This is just another way for a company that's reported "record profits" in the years since deregulation to collect millions of dollars for it's shareholders and board members. I have also tried switching to other providers who offer promises of low rates, but hide in the ridiculously confusing small print that if you don't opt out of their service at the end of your contract with them, in the 10 day window that they give you, then you are automatically enrolled in a new contract. Then they charge whatever rate they want. It seems that no matter where we go, corporations have the backing of our local government and we get the shaft. If we want things like this to change, we have to show up en masse to these local meetings and demand justice. But who can really afford to miss all the days of work that will require? Not the people who get the deposits thrown on them. Big f'n fail to the people we elected to look out for us.

I just received a 813.00 deposit request from bge, the same situation, I always paid my bill EVERY MONTH, maybe after the due date but always by the end of the month,, I have went without medicine just to pay the bill, and now THIS,and also paid the late charges, where is our good old president, when we need him to help us when big co. try to rip us poor people off , oh thats right he doesnt pay his electric bill the tax payers do thanks for nothing .

The amounts of these deposits seem really high. Can you pay the deposit in increments until it's paid off? Is it refunded at some point in the future?

I just got a letter from them today . Call the Public Service Comission. This sounds to me like it's a scheme they are doing to collect more revnue. The bastards are crooks. We are in a one month behind rut that we can't get out of and they always get the bill just one month behind. These bastatds are nothing but crooks!

As someone who has never paid a late fee or received a shut off notice, I would love to know what percentage of people fall into that category.

Got my letter today! If BGE requires a security deposit for late pay, then they ought to eliminate the late fee!!!!

BGE has recently decided to charge VERY large deposits to customers who have been using the company's turn off notices as a due date. I'm one of them. For 25 years I've paid the same way, and may I repeat, "PAID!" Until recently, their bills said that you could be subject to a deposit if your service is cut off for "NON-payment." One month, they slid a "change" into the seldom-read, repetitive section of my bill, saying that if I don't start paying on time I could be subject to a security deposit. This was VERY slippery sneaky. I got a letter only after they had decided to asses the deposit. This letter should have come first. This is the same company that doubled our rates a few years ago. The Public Service Commission (PSC) is more like BGE's PR company. And that TV story on WBAL was sponsored by none other than BGE.
I think that we all have a legal reason to complain that BGE did not sufficiently notify customers of their change in policy, and should have to return all deposits with interest. I'm up for a class action suit. Anybody in?
This is why we can't have monopolies. This is why we need choices. Is there a lawyer out there that wants this case?

I got my letter in May for a $450 deposit and was so upset I switched to washington Gas Energy. Unfortunately since they have the delivery of the gas and electric service, I'm told that I'm still obligated to pay the deposit.

Even the deposit I paid 6 years ago, I'm told they cant find. I sent in a payment and they quickly applied it to the deposit and then sent me a turn off notice. Is this legal? I think we should have a class action law suit.

My daughter had a sizable "deposit" added to her bill this month. She had been late two or three times, but always paid for the month payment was due. Because of this "deposit" she got a six hundred and fifty dollar BGE bill, which in turn made her late on her mortgage and other things. Frankly, I think this is an illegal policy. Can you imagine if instead of small late fees, we were all charged a DEPOSIT because they felt like it? No more.

We have been customers of BGE for almost 10 years. We have a very old house built in 1920, and efficiency upgrades have been financially out of reach. We have been late and received turn-off notices on occasion. However, we have never gone over the cutoff date, or had our service interrupted for non-payment. Only one time before did we have to make payment arrangements, and we fully satisfied that obligation. This last year has been tight, and we have fallen behind again, but we continue to pay before the cutoff date. We made payment arrangements again for $700. A couple of days later there is a letter demanding a deposit of another $707. I called BGE and a supervisor who I will told us another arrangement was our only option. We have not shown we are at risk of default on our utility bill. We are trying to get caught up, but this just puts us further behind. The deposit demand makes no sense.
We have since filed a complaint with the PSC and apparently if you are simply late more than two times in a 12 month period,(even if they are not consecutive) the PSC has given BGE VIA "The code of Maryland Regulations(COMAR), 20.30.02.03" the legal right to require these deposits. What sense does that make. This makes absolutely no sense when applied to those who simply get a little behind in a tough economy and try to actively work with their utility to correct the situation. These regulations need to be brought out into the public spotlight, to allow for vigorous debate. I do not believe the local media has brought enough attention to this. We need to remember that we are all affected by what the PSC does, and we are all just one paycheck away from having the same thing happen when we can least afford it..

I also was shocked to put it mildly when I received the demand for a security deposit of not one but two months of service. I have had a bge account in my name for at least 15 years and never had my service shut off. I have applied for energy assistance but really something needs to be done with bge.... they have gotten way out of control with thier demands and even if you switch suppliers you still have to pay the security deposit so wht other option is there???? Live without power?? Not looking like a good idea especially when you have 4 kids

Got my deposit bill as well and although I paid the current amount due on time, they applied most of it to the "deposit".
Now I have a cutoff notice because that bill was "technically" not paid in full. Seeing as though they have a deposit on the books for me now, why can't they apply that to the balance? I don't like the idea that they just want two months of service fees on the books and not account for it on my monthly bill. I can see where folks' money would get lost. At what point do you get it back? This is BS!!

I TOO WAS A VICTIM OF BGE'S SECURITY SCAM OF OVER $800. I WAS LATE BUT ALWAYS,ALWAYS PAID MY BILL BEFORE THE MONTH WAS OUT, PLUS THE LATE FEE. NEVER HAD A TURN-OFF IN OVER 22YRS. WITH BGE. I PAID THEM OFF IN FULL, IN FULL! AND CLOSED MY ACCOUNT. WHEN MY SISTER, WHO HAS A 740 CREDIT SCORE AND HAD THE SERVICE PUT IN HER NAME, BGE CHARGED HER A $800+ SECURITY DEPOSIT AS WELL BECAUSE IT WAS THE SAME HOUSE. SHE STARTED WITH A CLEAN SLATE AND DIDN"T OWE BGE ANYTHING SO WHY WAS SHE CHARGED A SECURITY DEPOSIT ON A NEW ACCOUNT. ALSO,DID I TELL YOU THAT BGE "MADE" ME PAY MY BILL IN FULL BEFORE THEY WOULD EVEN SWITCH THE SERVICE INTO MY SISTER'S NAME....SO WHERE"S MY SECURITY DEPOSIT I PAID???? I HAVE REPEATEDLY CALLED BGE AND SPOKE TO SEVERAL PEOPLE WHO MUST ALL READ FROM THE SAME SCRIPT. THIS IS NOTHING SHORT OF A SCAM AND IT'S NOT FAIR TO ALL THE PEOPLE WHO STAY LOYAL AND USE THEIR SERVICE. WHY DOES BGE CHARGE A SECURITY DEPOSIT WHEN THEY'RE ALREADY RACKING UP ON THE LATE FEES? IF PEOPLE CAN JUST BARELY PAY THEIR BILL, HOW THE HECK ARE THEY SUPPOSE TO COME UP WITH A SECURITY DEPOSIT ON TOP OF THE HIGH BILL PLUS A LATE FEE PLUS A SECURITY DEPOSIT...WHICH BY THE WAY IS ONLY BROKEN DOWN IN 3 MONTHLY INSTALLMENTS.DOES ANYONE AT CITY HALL EVEN CARE??/ DOES ANY POLITICIANS WE PUT IN OFFICE REALLY CARE??? DO THEY EVEN READ ANY OF THE BLOGS WHERE CUSTOMERS ARE COMPLAINING IN OUTRAGEOUS PROPORTIONS? CAN WE ALL BE WRONG??? DO THEY THINK WE"RE JUST MAKING THIS STUFF UP??? WHO REALLY CARES ABOUT US DURING THIS RECESSION?? CAN'T THEY HEAR THE CRYS OF THE PEOPLE? PEOPLE ARE STRUGGLING TO SURVIVE AND BGE IS JUST AS HIGH AS SOME PEOPLE'S MORTGAGES/RENT. WE'RE NOT EVEN HOME MOST OF THE DAY AND OUR BGE IS STILL HIGH!!! I FEEL SORRY FOR THE POOR AND THE SENIORS. I FEEL SORRY FOR MYSELF! SHAME ON YOU BGE. I'M SURE "GOD" IS NOT PLEASED...AND NEITHER AM I. I HOPE ONE DAY YOU ALL REAP WHAT YOU'VE SOWN....WITH A SECURITY DEPOSIT ATTACHED!!!!

When I started services with BGE I had to pay a security deposit which was paid in installments. The security deposit was paid in full. Then a year later I received a letter from BGE stating I owe another security deposit. What? Spoke to the supervisor and she stated because I was late a few times that I owed another security deposit. I was late a few times but my service was not turned off and late charges were paid as well. To begin with when I started services the representative for BGE told me that long as I pay my bill and services it not turned off there will be no problem. I was even refunded my security deposit back after a year because my service was in good standard and I was late a few times. So why do I have to pay another deposit? What was the point of giving back a refund if now a year later they telling me I owe another deposit? That doesn’t make any since. So you telling me if you’re late a few times you have to pay another freaking security deposit every year? It’s wrong and BGE is getting over. It should be a one time only security deposit. People run into problems paying bills and as long as your service is not turned off I don’t think BGE should make customers pay another deposit. This is ludicrous and something needs to be done. I was going to write to 11 news investigates but after reading everyone comments I wonder can anything be done. It’s a shame how companies take advantages of their customers and customers seem to have know rights. Basically you shut up pay your bills or services get shut off. It’s a shame. I wish there was another company to choose from. BGE knows there are no other options. You have to go through BGE to get services. I agree they are crooks.


I have been a custom with BGE for almost 12 years and I have paid my bill on time for the most part. However, this year my wife has been out of work and her unemplyment was discontinued. I have been trying to support my whole family of one income. It has been extremely difficult. I recieved a letter after, I recieved a 150 dollar deposit which was placed on my bill. Keep in mind that the deposit is more then my montly bill. I have been late but my bill never went into collections to my knowledge. It is clear that our current Govenor has failed us and if he think by and chance that I will vote for him to seek a seat in DC he is sadly mistaken. But I fault the voters of Maryland and myself who voted for him. Martin did a half of a job in Baltimore when he was mayor; why would I look for him to keep his word and regulate BGE. The question that I have to ask is,if this policy was made law do BGE have to inform its customers of this policy change? Last time I check this is still America. As a single person, I have no power but as a collective body we have power. If any one is intrested in uniting to address this matter you can email me at rwoodson2504@gmail.com

I have been a custom with BGE for almost 12 years and I have paid my bill on time for the most part. However, this year my wife has been out of work and her unemplyment was discontinued. I have been trying to support my whole family of one income. It has been extremely difficult. I recieved a letter after, I recieved a 150 dollar deposit which was placed on my bill. Keep in mind that the deposit is more then my montly bill. I have been late but my bill never went into collections to my knowledge. It is clear that our current Govenor has failed us and if he think by and chance that I will vote for him to seek a seat in DC he is sadly mistaken. But I fault the voters of Maryland and myself who voted for him. Martin did a half of a job in Baltimore when he was mayor; why would I look for him to keep his word and regulate BGE. The question that I have to ask is,if this policy was made law do BGE have to inform its customers of this policy change? Last time I check this is still America. As a single person, I have no power but as a collective body we have power. If any one is intrested in uniting to address this matter you can email me at rwoodson2504@gmail.com

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About Jay Hancock
Jay Hancock has been a financial columnist for The Baltimore Sun since 2001. He has also been The Baltimore Sun's diplomatic correspondent in Washington and its chief economics writer. Before moving to Baltimore in 1994 he worked for The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk and The Daily Press of Newport News.

His columns appear Tuesdays and Sundays.
-- ADVERTISEMENT --

Most Recent Comments
Baltimore Sun coverage
Sign up for FREE business alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for Business text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Charm City Current
Stay connected