CL&P Speeds Up Electric Shutoff Process As Customers Face Economic Hardships

May 22, 2010
By

Hugh Brower of South Windsor became one of the first customers of Connecticut Light & Power to feel the impact of the company’s new shutoff policy, which is intended to pressure customers to pay their bills faster.

Less than a week after his bill was due last month, Brower received a shutoff notice warning him that he was going to lose his electric service unless he paid quickly. He was also assessed the customary late fee.

It’s part of CL&P’s new, get-tough policy – and a move the other electric utility in the state, United Illuminating, is not willing to make.

CL&P, Connecticut’s largest electric utility, told utility regulators last month it will now be prepared to shut off a customer’s service if their bill is 50 days outstanding. Prior to that, the company held off for 75 days before taking that step.

Brower paid his March bill of $214.97 in full on April 6. He then received his next bill on April 12 for $177.76.

“Then last week, just 30 days after receiving that April bill, I got a disconnect notice in the mail,” he wrote me. “I had yet to mail my check to them, but I still couldn’t understand why they were willing to turn off a customer’s service when the bill is only 30 days old.”

“That’s really unbelievable,” said Brower, who says he never before had gotten such a notice. “If they’re doing it to me they have to be doing it to other people. I’m lucky I didn’t go away on vacation or I might have come home to a house with no power and rotting food in the fridge!”

CL&P spokesman David Radanovich declined to comment on Brower’s complaint and declined to discuss his company’s new policy for its 1.2 million customers. If he had been willing to talk, I would have asked whether CL&P pays all its bills within 30 days.

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the policy appears legal, but stated that it “comes at the worst possible economic time.”

The new policy is “at least morally — even financially — questionable,” Blumenthal said in a prepared statement in response to my questions. “While complete non-payment of bills may increase rates for all, reaching prompt and affordable payment plans could increase collectables – avoiding shutoffs for struggling families and allowing CL&P to recover its revenue.”

UI — which serves customers in southwest Connecticut — says it too is facing a much larger collectible issue, but its policy is to work with customers to help them reduce electric use and to help set up payment plans. Shutting off power is the last resort for UI, which has a much better customer service record than CL&P.

UI Vice President Joseph Thomas says his company has no plans to cut its 74-day wait period before shutoffs.

CL&P’s new policy, according to its April letter to regulators, include the following:

1) Currently, the Companies’ disconnect process takes approximately 75 days from the date the customer receives his first bill to the time he is eligible to be disconnected. With this revised process, the customer will be eligible for disconnect 50 days after he receives his first bill.

2) Accounts will enter the disconnect process when they are $75 delinquent (unchanged from current limit) and 35 days delinquent. Accounts currently enter the process when they are 38 days delinquent.

3) The Reminder letter which is currently sent to all first time delinquent customers will be eliminated.

4) A 13-day disconnect notice letter will be sent to the customer on Day 35, compared to current process of issuing the Reminder letter on Day 38.

5) Outside of the winter moratorium period (October 31 – May 2), the Companies will discontinue sending the Final Appeal or 72-hour notice. Currently, 72-hour notices are sent 10 days after the issuance of the 13-day disconnect notice to disconnect notice recipients who have not paid their delinquent balance or entered into a payment arrangement.

6) The Companies will undertake an outbound calling campaign during the 7 days after disconnect notices are sent.

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33 Responses to CL&P Speeds Up Electric Shutoff Process As Customers Face Economic Hardships

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by George Gombossy, Michael Yermenson. Michael Yermenson said: RT @ctwatchdog CL&P Speeds Up Electric Shutoff Process As Customers Face Economic Hardships http://bit.ly/de29jz via @AddToAny #fb [...]

  2. Sally on May 22, 2010 at 9:37 am

    The utilities have become as merciless as the banks in their greediness. Southern Connecticut Gas starts with the dunning calls even before the second month’s bill arrives. They’re clueless about what their customers are going through and they have us over a barrel.

    • john wolf on June 17, 2011 at 10:19 am

      cl and p are a bunch of ruthless …like the rest of them , they dont try to work with you or anything . just to spite them i am gonna go with one of their competitors. they cut us off i the winter last year ( i have a newborn ) my attorney called them and told them if something happens to that child you will have alot more to worry about than a few hundred dollars owed to you by a customer of 15 years . suck it cl and p . your’e worthless and heartless .

  3. Priorities on May 23, 2010 at 6:33 am

    Stop crying – look at all the time and effort that goes into trying to get a payment from delinquint customers, it isn’t like getting your car reposessed! If power is so important to you, make a payment effort. Turn off the TV, have fewer cell phones. 50 days to call a toll free number and make arraingements? Not bad. Try being that late on your taxes!

  4. johnie2xs on May 23, 2010 at 9:21 am

    You think you guys have it bad? Check these comments concerning Progress Energy, down here in Florida. These people are merciless.

    http://www.consumeraffairs.com/utilities/progress_energy_florida.html

    Expect it to get worse, not better.

  5. Pete on May 23, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Just pay your bills on time and you won’t have a problem. This article is misleading as it states he received a late notice 30 days after receiving his April bill. You won’t get a late notice until your 30 days late and then you have another 20 days to settle the account or enter into a payment plan. If you owed me money I wouldn’t want to have to wait more than 30 days for it.

    You use the service so pay for it! I can’t blame CL&P for doing what they have too. Why don’t you investigate and find out how much money CL&P charges off per year because of NO payment by people.

    So, Hugh. Pay your bill before the due date and stop complaining because your getting shut off notices because your over 30 days late. Let’s get real here.

    • George Gombossy on May 23, 2010 at 3:58 pm

      Pete: thanks for writing us, but please read my column carefully. I clearly says he was sent a late notice more than a month after first bill was sent. And YOU DO GET A LATE NOTICE before you suggest infact they can now SHUT OFF power 50 days AFTER the initial bill was SENT.

      • Jen on May 23, 2010 at 4:07 pm

        I don’t understand what you are replying to George. Hughs bill CL&P’s regulations which are approved by the DPUC. Whats the problem?

    • john wolf on June 17, 2011 at 10:26 am

      hey big shot pete : instead of looking down your nose at people have a little understanding .in a time where i see wall street brokers reduced to delivering pizzas . i think we all have some problems . you sound like me 5 years ago all arrogant and shit . making 200k a year and poof the economy sink my firm and i am lucky and blessed to make 1/3 of that . so remember pete it dosent matter how much you have today ! how much will you have tomorrow . i dont care if youre a millionaire many men bigger and richer than you have fallen . keep that in mind . you probably work at cl and p by the way your’e talkin.

  6. Jen on May 23, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Why do people find it hard to believe that a company expects payment for services rendered and when they don’t get it, they say the company doesn’t understand what what customers are going through? We all know the economy is crappy and that is what makes it more important to keep up on your own bills so that you do not become eligible to have your service turned off. Or more importantly, just call the company to set up an arrangement! But quit saying that the company doesn’t care because they expect to be paid for services YOU used. As a customer you cannot fill up your gas tank for $35 and tell the gas attendent you will pay him $10 a month till you pay in full, can you? Why expect it from CL&P?

    • George Gombossy on May 23, 2010 at 4:28 pm

      Why does UI take a more progressive approach? And keep in mind Cl&P six times a year shuts off the wrong house.

      • Jen on May 23, 2010 at 8:29 pm

        how many errors does UI have in shutting off the wrong house, and what is the percentage in comparison to the millions of customers the NU services compared to the thousands UI serves? I assume you never made an error George?

      • Pete on May 24, 2010 at 10:33 am

        Six times a year isn’t bad when you have over 1.2 million customers! That’s a great success ratio don’t ya think? Six mistakes a year! I wish I was that good.

    • Ann on May 24, 2010 at 8:26 am

      Jen,
      Big difference with buying gas for your car & paying your electric bill! Heck I’ve had my 2000 Ford Explorer a little over a year-and-a-half and have only been able to afford to fill it up 3 times! !Rest of the time it’s $10 here, $8 there, $5 here,etc, etc. Gas has come down some, which is great-wish CL&P charges would come down! :0( Oh well, maybe when I get my EIC check in 8 weeks I can afford to fill my gas tank & help my mother pay down her electric bll.

      • Pete on May 24, 2010 at 10:34 am

        If you don’t like CL&P’s rates. Sign up with someone who is cheaper. Try Public Power in New Milford. I use them and save over $20 per month from what CL&P charges.

  7. Wendy on May 24, 2010 at 7:07 am

    I just finished reading the article about CL&P turning off customers’ power quicker. What also caught my attention was CL&P ever improving its stellar customer service. Well, it better be stellar! In the article spokesman David Radanovich mentions CL&P having 1.2 million customers. I have lived in the state of CT for 2 1/2 years and not until about a year ago did I notice a Customer Service charge for $16.00 every month on my CL&P bill. After calling to inquire about it, their Customer Service Dept. told me it is always on there and it is a charge for customers calling in with questions…like I was doing on that day. I told her she could remove that $16.00 charge each month and I would never call her again. Of course that fell on deaf ears. Whatever CL&P uses the $16.00 per month for ……times that by 1.2 million….you do the math! Obscene – just saying!

    • Pete on May 24, 2010 at 10:30 am

      I call them all of the time and have NEVER seen a $16.00 charge for contacting customer service. I think you might be mistaken a bit!

  8. Shemp on May 24, 2010 at 7:24 am

    I have to agree. The USPS loses (literally) a ton of mail each week. It might be your CL&P payment. My former mailperson probably had a wee bit of a drinking or drug problem because my neighbors were delivering my mail which they found by the roadside. So CL&P, cut folks some slack. At a minimum, before you slice the line, call people. Maybe they have a good excuse (deceased, lying in ICU, serving time, etc) and they can make arrangements (well, not the deceased). This is the kind of senseless bureaucracy that makes people go solar.

    • Pete on May 24, 2010 at 10:29 am

      If your having mail problems then sign up for the on-line service and get e-mail alerts when your bill is due. You can’t blame the USPS for paying your bills late because you didn’t get the bill. You know you have this bill every month at the same time. So, go on-line and view your bill and pay it on-line. You must have a computer as your here posting a response to this story. Plus, by getting your statement by e-mail instead of snail mail. You just saved a tree or two.

      Stop blaming others for your problems!

  9. Ann on May 24, 2010 at 7:46 am

    Last year my 80-year-old mom, who lives solely on Social Secuirty, fell behind with her electric bill. In Oct she got a shutoff notice, so I called teh credit & collections dept as my mom told them it was ok for them to discuss her account with me. They said they needed a $300 payment by the end of the week of her service would be shut off. I managed to borrow the money from someone,a s I did not have it, than she qualified for the WInter Shutoff Protection Program. Well, at end of April she got the shut off notice, as well as 2 phone calls re: shutoff…this was on the last Monday of the month. By that Wedensday I finally got a chance to talk to the credit & collections dept & the woman I spoke to said my mother was eligible for “Nu Start”, and that she was actually doing us a favor as she saw the last payment made was back in November. Anyways, she e-mailed a Nu Start application, which we filled out & my mother signed, and I faxed it to the # the rep gave me. Also-I was told we had to make a “good faith” payment of $320 by that Friday or the following Monday (5/3) would be a “no service” day. The rep also said that my mom woul dhave to pay $160 per month once the application went thru,etc. So, I paid the $320 out of my own monthly check (I get my late ex-husband’s disability retirment pay), and my mother paid me back when she got paid on May 3rd as I had to pay my rent ASAP. Well on Sat May 15th, my mother called me all frantic saying she got a bill for $1,550 something due by June 10th! I called Customer Service, and teh only thing that rep could tell me was that she saw that the Nu Start app was “pending” and that a payment of $160 should of been paid by May 12th! Noone told us that at all-in fact when I asked another rep when I had called on that Friday, 4/30 when I had to call in to report I had made the good faith payment, she said she didn’ t know as the statements hadn’t gotten printed out yet. My mother has recieved nothing at all regarding the Nu Start Program, and nor could she have afforded to pay $160 right after paying the $320, her rent, other bills groceries, etc. Do you think she will get another shutoff notice, and what can I/should I do?! Thanks

    • George Gombossy on May 24, 2010 at 8:23 am

      You need to contact the Attorney General’s office and the DPUC

      • Ann on May 24, 2010 at 8:32 am

        Thanks for your reply. You don’t think I should call Nu Start? Who would be the quickest & most prompt-Atty Gen, or DPUC? Also, since I am “authorized” to speak with CL&P about my mothers account, can I deal with this matter in talking to the Atty Gen’s office and/or DPUC? My mom is going to be 81 mid-June and this whole thing (and issues like it) are VERY VERY stressful for her. Also, she can not get “out and about” really-she cannot get up into my SUV……she would not be required to go anywheres would she? Thanks!

    • Pete on May 24, 2010 at 10:25 am

      When you made the payment in October for the $300. Why from that time until April didn’t you make any other payments. If you don’t make you monthly payments on-time. They have the right to disconnect you. Why wasn’t your mother making her monthly payments and why did you only get involved when then balance was very past due and very high? Being on Social Security is no excuse for anyone to not pay a bill. Does your mother have a budget? Knowing that she only gets a certain amount per month. Have you budgeted her money so she has enough to pay everybody? It doesn’t sound that way as she seems to not be paying the electric bill every month. How much could her bill be per month anyway. She’s 80 years old! She should be part of the Energy Assistance program every year from November until March. This helps no matter if you have Gas, Oil or electric heat. Plus, with CL&P. If your part of the Energy Asst program. They have a matching payment program.

      It sounds as if your mother has too many bills and juts might be living above her means. Maybe it’s time for a family member to take over her expenses and put her on a strict budget. We need to stop blaming CL&P because we can’t afford to pay our bills!

      • Ann on May 25, 2010 at 8:09 am

        Pete: Well my mom has a very stubborn attitude and seems to think she can take care of things herself, but when push comes to shove, she really can’t and lets me know things super last minute. I live almost an hour away from my mom, have a 13-year-old daughter to raise and my fiance, who is currently on disability, has some issues that I need to be around to help him deal with. My mom really needs to be in at least, if nothing else, an assisted living facility, but refuses. She also refuses to take help from anyone else other than me, and I am an only child and this places a great burden on me. At least if she was in a place that had medical and other staff around 24-7 this would be great for her & I. My mom isists on keeping her checkbook, and making out her own checks-the only time I have ever made out checks for her is when she was in the hospital, which was 2 years ago. She needs another hip replacement but refuses, and uses a walker to shuffle around her apartment. Her forgetfulness is to the point that she called 911 when she wanted the cable co to come and remove their equipment as she got sick of getting their shutoff notices (she was behind paying them as well) and a police officer showed up at her door. I found her a nice convolescnet place near my place, she said “ok” shed go, we got her to the Dr’s and I brought the papers for him to sign. When he asked her if she wanted to go, she said “No-I take care of myself”, and that was it. So things will probably be the way they are for awhile longer.

  10. Dee on May 24, 2010 at 10:41 am

    I was 27 when I was injured.I am now 50. I get 176.00 a month from disability.The kind you actually had to earn.Seven spine surgeries later.I am still unable to work.
    I tried to make payment arrangements with CL&P. Out of 176.00 they demanded no less than 163.06 per month.My hubby has been unemployed for almost 2 years..We get all our bills paid as best we can.The bills come before medications and sometimes even food.I have lost 30 pounds since March 3,2010.
    Yankee gas wanted 175.00 a month,but when we were turned over to special credit and collections they said they wanted 287.00 a month.Off went the gas again.I am not crying over things I can not afford to have.I understand if you can not afford to pay for services,you do not get them.I think it is wrong to demand a certain amount that I have no way of paying.I was told that speaking to another customer service rep would would not lower the required amount.
    We have a small home from 1900 that has two meters.We get two bills.I paid all through the winter on one meter until the balance was zero.
    I am trying,but they are not working with me.Out of 400.00 weekly unemployment that my hubby gets,35.00 of that put us over and we can not get food stamps.You simply learn to budget the best you can,stretch those meals,and sometimes get a treat like making homemade bread on your covered grill.
    Try to remember there are much worse things in life than not having the luxury of certain utilities.I am a six year thyroid cancer survivor.My heart goes out to people with children and the elderly.I hope we do not see anymore increases anytime soon.If there were more options on payment arrangement amounts the utility companies would actually get their money.

    • Ann on May 25, 2010 at 8:00 am

      Dee,
      I am very sorry to hear about your disability & your husband’s unemployment. However, I couldn’t help but think the comment you made: “I get $176 a month from disability. The kind you actually have to earn” was a “dig” to me as I “inherited” the disability check I get. My 1st ex-husband wanted me to have that money, as I had raised our son who is now almost 20 and I am very proud to say, is in the US Army. I’m not going to say how much I get, judging by your comment as I’m sure it would aggravate you even more. Let’s put it this way-my rent is $800 a month and what I get takes care of my rent, no problem. However, after I pay rent I only have $56 and change left over from my check. However, I do have other bills, have to put gas in my SUV (it’s 10 years old), have to buy food, and I also have a 13-year-old daughter that needs to eat, needs clothes, etc. I get child support for her, and that is what it is. I am engaged & my fiance & I live toegether w/my daughter, however, he is currently on disability, so he only gets x amount per month, and I will say it’s much less than what I get. My mom cannot go without electricity as everything in her apartment, as in mine is electric so it isn’t a luxury for her or my family & I it is a necessity. these utility companies should give Sr Citizens and people on disability a break!

      • Dee on June 1, 2010 at 10:57 am

        Ann,
        I did not mean to offend you.I was very frustrated after talking to the utility companies for hours.My deceased father was a lifer in the Army,my brother and four uncles were also Army.I am proud too!
        The check you get was earned.There are two types of disability.I was just referring to the one you have to work and pay into.I did not explain myself,so I apologize if I offended you.It was unintentional.
        As for using the word luxury in reference to much needed utilities,poor choice of words but thats how I was treated.I was simply trying to make a payment arrangement I could afford to actually keep.Instead I was treated like I was trying to get a free ride because I had a signed medical form.I just want to pay my bills.I was not aggravated.I was frustrated and ashamed.
        I tried to get retrained through vocational rehab but they said I would be wasting funds because I will need more surgeries.I see folks with much more severe disabilities that do work everyday.

  11. Lawrence on May 27, 2010 at 8:25 am

    you think this is bad? wait for health care.

  12. Ann on July 18, 2010 at 8:52 am

    I am pleased to report that FINALLY my mother got a notice in the mail that she has been accepted in the “Nu Start” program as of July 1st……and applied for her at teh end of March! So, as long as she can make payments of $160 a month, she’ll be all set!

  13. Andreaangel73 on August 30, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Yeah CL&P sucks because you get a bill w/the due date on it,well,well,well,little do they tell you that there is a date due that one does not see on bill,lucky for me I call about my bill & I was told to pay a certain amout of the bill in Aug. mind you due date is in Sept. So n ow I paid in Aug. no again in Sept. first wk. Why CL&P can’t put that hidden date on bill totally sucks. Why are the so mean about things??? The customer serv. person said good I called because I would be in the shut off notice,WHAT!!!!!!! Somebody better really set CL&P straight!!!!!!! Come on customers of CL&P!

  14. adam smtih on April 20, 2012 at 3:19 am

    Shutting off power is NOT the last option for UI. They shut me off a few weeks after I made a payment of $625. Apparently I was supposed to call them within two days after making the payment to tell them I made it and make sure I was on the payment plan. They never told me that. They lied and said they did. I said they record all the calls, let’s hear the tape. For some reason they can’t do that and have to go by the notes. So if the notes say I’m 5’3″ then I have to be 5’3″ instead of 6’2″? Their reasoning makes no sense. I said “why would I pay $625 I could have used for rent if I didn’t want to get on that plan?” They still deny it. I have power in my roommate’s name, and they have no money. The only payment arrangement they had offered me after all that was to pay 95% down and they’d restore service. 95%. Seriously? I emailed them recently and asked if they’d rather be right or get paid. They flat out told me they were in the right and no payment arrangement would be offered. Fine. Eat that money. The whole monopoly thing in CT sucks.

  15. Rich R on August 28, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Cannot stand CL&P,they make me sick as well as our government using utilities to take more revenue from people.Iam sickened by it.Iam ready to live on candle light and a generator to feed my water heater.

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