Duke Energy Progress acknowledges 'payment posting delay fiasco'
Posted July 14, 2014
Updated July 15, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Customers of Duke Energy Progress are fired up about another issue – delays in when payments are posted. It wasn't the customer's fault, yet it triggered late fees.
WRAL’s 5 On Your Side received complaints on the issue after a story a few months ago about Duke Energy Progress suddenly charging higher deposits based on late payments.
The 5 On Your Side team found documented problems with billing delays. Some customers say the delays prompted ongoing, frustrating battles. Duke Energy Progress even called it a "payment posting delay fiasco."
“We knew we had paid it,” said customer Billy McCorquodale. "I noticed that it was lots more than it normally was, and I said, ‘Hey, something is wrong. Something's not jiving here.’”
His bill included a past due amount of $135.60.
“So, we called them,” McCorquodale said. “They come up with the fact, ‘Well, it takes time for a check to go through the bank’ rah rah rah this and that.”
McCorquodale’s canceled check proves it was cashed two days before the bill was due. He faxed a copy to Duke Energy. On his next bill, there was still no credit. McCorquodale was told to pay again, right away, to keep his power on. So, he paid $135.60 twice.
WRAL’s 5 On Your Side also heard from Robert Williamson, who emailed about being charged a late fee. Duke got his check the day it was due, but didn't post it until four days later. He complained to the North Carolina Utilities Commission and got it resolved.
Documents obtained by 5 On Your Side show dozens of similar complaints to the commission. One payment didn't post until 17 days after it was mailed. The business complained to the commission. Duke Energy Progress responded, saying they were "continuing the investigation with mail/posting delays.”
One response referenced the Duke Energy/Progress Energy merger, saying "payments can take up to 10 business days for processing."
With another customer, Duke Energy Progress wrote that “she was affected by our payment posting delay fiasco, but hopefully we've got a handle of that now."
Duke Energy Progress spokesman Jeff Brooks calls the delays "growing pains" of the merger. The company closed its Raleigh payment processing site last summer and sent everything to Charlotte. After complaints about late fees, they improved efficiency and added staff.
"We didn't expect that we would have the issues that we had, and it was unfortunate," he said.
So, why should customers have to contact the Duke Energy Progress about the problem?
“Well, again, I think it's because it's not a blanket issue across all of our customers,” Brooks said. “It's hard to say how many fees were related to this specifically.”
A Chapel Hill customer says she was hit with a late fee even though Duke Energy Progress automatically drafts her payment one day before the due date. The billing cycle varies by the days of the month, and Duke Energy progress recommends all customers allow up to 10 days for processing.
“I'm not saying you have to do that. I'm saying you can pick any time in that window to make the payment,” Brooks said. “The due date is when you receive the bill.”
When asked how many customers were assessed a new security deposit because of the payment delay problem, Brooks said he was not aware that any customers have been assessed.
As for Billy McCorquodale, he says the process has been “very, very frustrating.” He went back and forth with Duke Energy Progress for five months. When 5 On Your Side called, the power company discovered they credited his payment to another account. They fixed it that day.
Duke Energy Progress says something as simple as stapling or taping your payment could delay processing and lead to late fees. The company points to payment options that post the same day.
If you think you were erroneously charged a late fee, you can check past statements online and contact customer service. Like the others, you'll need proof you sent the payment in enough time for it to be processed.