March 08. 2018 4:24PM

Eversource ordered to stop assessing late charges to bills sent by mail

By MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader


CONCORD — People paying their Eversource bills by mail will no longer be assessed late charges or be removed from billing or payment arrangements if their payments arrive late.

The state Public Utilities Commission this week ordered Eversource to take those steps until further notice because mailed payments were taking up to 21 business days to get posted to customer accounts, resulting in late payments for bills mailed in a timely manner.

Eversource during a hearing said it was willing to reverse late payment charges only after specific customers complained, according to the PUC’s nine-page order.

“While the commission appreciates this willingness, we are concerned that the company does not fully appreciate the magnitude of the problem as evidenced by the fact that it was unable to provide the exact number of mailed payments that experienced processing delays or were assessed late payment charges,” the commission’s order said.

“Further, while it is appropriate for Eversource to reverse a late payment charge if the customer calls, it is unfair to those who incur such charge through no fault of their own but then pay the charge without complaint,” the order said.

Eversource said starting in January and February 2017, it started seeing delays in the posting of mailed payments by a Dallas processing center.

Eversource blamed the delays on the United States Postal Service consolidating offices across the country. The delayed payments affected customers in New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Eversource spokeswoman Kaitlyn Woods said the late payment fee is 1 percent of the amount unpaid on the due date. She said the utility took proactive steps to help address the problem.

“We remain focused on moving expeditiously to transition to a new payment processing partner located in the Boston area by the end of Q2, with the goal of providing increased peace of mind to our customers who pay by check that their payments are being received and processed promptly,” she said.