N E W S F R O M T H E

O F F I C E O F C O N S U M E R A D V O C A T E

 

555 Walnut Street, 5th Floor, Forum Place

Harrisburg, PA 17101-1923

Telephone: (717) 783-5048

Telecopier: (717) 783-7152

Internet Email address: consumer@paoca.org

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 12, 2004

CONTACT: Susan Henry, Consumer Liaison; e-mail: shenry@paoca.org

 

HARRISBURG B Consumer Advocate Sonny Popowsky and the Public Utility Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Services today urged utility consumers who have recently paid their utility bills through a third party to hold on to their receipts, carefully check their next utility bill, and contact the Office of Consumer Advocate or the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission if they have any problem receiving full credit for their prior bill payments.

Popowsky and the PUC issued their appeal in light of concerns raised by the recent bankruptcy of CashPoint Network Services, Inc., a New York based bill processor that had been collecting money from consumers and then forwarding that money to utilities and other businesses throughout Pennsylvania and several other states. CashPoint provided that service through numerous supermarkets, grocery stores, and other business locations around the Commonwealth.

"The problem is that thousands of consumers made timely payments to CashPoint or one of its many payment sites around Pennsylvania, but that money may not have been properly credited to their utility accounts after CashPoint was forced into bankruptcy late in April," Popowsky said. "Our concern is that customers who paid their bills could be threatened with termination or collection procedures by utilities who did not receive the money due to the collapse of CashPoint." Popowsky noted that certain Pennsylvania utilities had formal written contracts with CashPoint to provide bill services, but that several others also received customer payments through CashPoint or its vendors without an express written contract.

Customers who believe that they have not been given the appropriate credit for their payments should first contact their utility. If they are unable to resolve the matter with the utility, they should immediately contact the Office of Consumer Advocate at 800-684-6560, or the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Services (BCS) at 800-782-1110. "Once a customer registers a complaint on this matter with the PUC, the utility must resolve the complaint prior to taking any action against the customer," Popowsky said.

Popowsky said that his Office is intervening in the CashPoint bankruptcy proceeding in New York on behalf of Pennsylvania consumers. "We will try to do everything we can to make sure that Pennsylvania consumers receive the proper credit for their utility bill payments," Popowsky said. "In the meantime, I would urge all consumers who have used a third party bill payment service to hold on to their receipts and check their bills carefully to make sure they have received credit for what they have actually paid."

In addition to its toll-free number, the OCA can be reached via e-mail at consumer@paoca.org.

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