5 On Your Side

Late payments, bad credit could affect your power bill

Posted February 19
Updated February 20

— When the power bill arrives, most people don’t expect it to be $200, $300 or even $26,000 more than normal, but that is what happened to multiple Duke Energy Progress customers. They reached out to 5 On Your Side to complain that they were blindsided by bills with added deposits without notice.

Mary Ann Schultz says she opened her bill to find that it included an unexpected $458 deposit.

“I said, ‘Gosh, did I not pay the bill? Am I losing my mind?’” she said.

 

Jeff Brooks with Duke Energy Progress says "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 now automatically reviews its accounts.

Initially, Brooks told us all accounts were up for 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 have a deposit added to their bill if they have one of the following triggers:

  1. two or more late payments, even by just one day
  2. shut-off notices for non-payment or
  3. payments that didn't go through, for example for insufficient funds.

 

Many of the customers who complained to 5 On Your Side said they have never been late on a payment, had a good payment history or always paid their bill.

“It’s like a slap in the face,” said Schulz.

Part of the trigger for Schulz’s deposit fee was a bankruptcy filing in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy ripped her dream home into the ocean, which ruined her 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 printing, packaging and labeling business in Garner, was hit with a $41,000 bill, according to administrative assistant Wendy Majewski. Although the company uses a lot of power in day-to-day printing – about $15,000 per month – the $41,000 bill was shocking.

“There it was, (a) $26,000 deposit right there on the bottom,” Majewski said. "I think a phone call was justified rather than just all of a sudden a $26,000 dollar bill. Some conversation between us and them – anything would have been better than the shocker of opening a bill with that amount owed to them."

Duke Energy Progress officials say with millions of customers, the bill is the easiest way to reach everyone. They add that residential customers’ deposits gain 8 percent interest after 90 days, but they 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 from each of the three major credit bureaus – Experian, Transunion and Equifax. It’s best to go to annualcreditreport.com and check the report every four months. Besides power bills, credit reports can also affect loans, how much will be charged for insurance, whether a landlord will rent you a home, and it could determine whether an employer offers you a job.

186 Comments

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  • diana123 Feb 24, 9:48 a.m.

    it's none of their business. they are in the utility business not the credit business. just another way to cheat the customer.

  • 27610-USA Feb 21, 5:50 p.m.

    What do you think about one of the 3 credit rating companies suggesting that Duke Progress Energy in North Carolina attach an out-of-the-blue deposit on some customer's power bills? Why would a power company place a not needed deposit on people with a low credit rating and already down in their luck? Duke Progress Energy in North Carolina has no competition, so why would they be willing to do this? They say after 12 months you will get your deposit back with interest as long as you are on time with paying your bill. So what is the point doing it in the first place?
    I and others believe all credit rating companies should be abolished for going too far in their suggestions. This country would be better off without any credit rating company. What do you think?

  • SailbadTheSinner Feb 21, 10:37 a.m.

    “They add that residential customers’ deposits gain 8 percent interest after 90 days….”

    Can this really be True?

    If so, how do I sign up to send them a very large deposit?

    ;-)

    STS

  • Abused By The System Feb 21, 8:20 a.m.

    Certainly Not fair when the source of the product has a complete monopoly and you have no other options/choices and are forced to buy an essential service from them. The utilities commission should step in and stop this at an absolute minimum only allow a deposit being able to accessed if your a new customer or have had your service disconnected. It is exactly what the story indicates, Corporate Bullying Greed.

  • BULLDOZER Feb 20, 7:54 p.m.

    As a homebuilder with perfect credit, always pay my bills on time I always get hit with a security deposit on every account. This started about 5 years ago. Would like to know where all of this money is parked

  • SomeRandomGuy Feb 20, 7:50 p.m.

    So, if a positive "triggering" event is found when credit is run, are they gonna reduce the deposit and mail a check to the customer?

  • csw Feb 20, 4:47 p.m.

    "but to add on a deposit because someone may be a risk doesn't make sense"

    ---

    That's precisely... View More

    — Posted by NeverSurrender

    So you are saying that if a person pays their electricity bill on time every month, it's okay to randomly run your credit report and charge you more according to that. Even banks don't do things like that. If you buy a home, they are not constantly running your credit report to request a larger down payment. What they are doing to established customers is wrong, period.

  • bluecharger Feb 20, 4:36 p.m.

    How is it legal to run a credit report without your knowledge or consent?

    — Posted by datenobunaga2

    Good Question. When buying a car or getting a job you have to sign that they can check your... View More

    — Posted by nic

    I have a better question: this aspect of the topic of Duke running your credit came from someone saying he was a rental-property owner....So if the renter is paying the bills, why does the owner's credit get run? Or....if the owner includes the utilities in the rent, why does Duke even KNOW there's a change in renters? Do BOTH owner AND renter get run, and possibly assessed a DOUBLE DEPOSIT? Small slice of the big picture, but now I'm fascinated to know just how far Duke is pushing this. But Roy Cooper, your constituents are calling you.....there's no way an existing service with no major changes in the service or the user can justify allowing a regulated utility monopoly to charge a (seemingly extreme) deposit out of the blue not related to past payment history TO THAT SERVICE PROVIDER ONLY! You made a lot of splashes last week wanting to be seen "doing something"....giddyap cowboy!

  • kikinc Feb 20, 4:32 p.m.

    CSW - Are you going to pay for the credit risk people when they do not pay their bill?? Why... View More

    — Posted by A Libertarian

    Did you not understand the article? Some people are being charged outrageous deposits because of negative hits to their credit report, even when they've never been late on their electric bill? Maybe someone lost their job, and is paying the most important bills first. Maybe someone's debt to income ratio took a hit. Why should those people be punished when they've been in good standing since they established service?

    I've had the same account since 2003 (CP&L). I had to pay a deposit when I first got service, and it was eventually refunded. If something happens with my credit now, but I've never been late on a payment (which I haven't), why should I have to leave another deposit?

  • bubbaredneck Feb 20, 4:26 p.m.

    How about you stick your duke power up your chute and we'll get generators! My company was hit with a $30,000 bill! I think this is piracy in it's political state! I guess Obama is a on the board of trustees there too!! Geeess!!!

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