Paying bills online is all part of our paperless lifestyle, where we don’t have to deal with tons of bills coming in the mail, and for the most part, it’s incredibly easy.
When we moved into our new house last year, it was the first time we had gas-powered utilities (heat and hot water). In our old home, everything was electric, but now we needed to set up an account with Washington Gas, the local gas provider here in the DC suburbs.
And since that time, everything has gone wrong.
In December 2015, Washington Gas switched to a new online billing platform, and it’s been nothing but a disaster — for my family and 18,000 other customers in the area.
We were signed up for electronic billing, and never got an email with a bill. And I didn’t think anything of it, because I don’t spend my time worrying if my bills are coming or not. Then, in April, we got a notification in the mail that we were 3 months past due on our bill and our service would be shut off if we didn’t pay it.
I was not happy, to say the least.
I called up Washington Gas and complained … a lot. They said they had a record of emails going out with bills, but I never got them. Turns out a lot of other people haven’t as well.
Bob Tilman of Falls Church, Virginia, usually pays his bills using Washington Gas’ electronic billing system. “I get an electronic bill every month and all I have to do is click on it and the bank sends the payment,” he said. It worked seamlessly for years, he said, but he hasn’t received a gas bill since January.
When he heard a coworker complain about problems with the system, Tilman called Washington Gas. “They admitted that they have had problems,” he said. Customer service also told him he was delinquent and owed $416.
They didn’t disconnect Tilman, but that wasn’t the case for Amy Wollins of Rockville, Maryland. She paid her last paper bill in October and never received a bill after signing up for e-billing, she said. She owed about $600, and Washington gas disconnected her.
The article that quotes these people was published in June. So for 6 months, Washington Gas has known they’ve had a problem and not fixed it. It’s a disgrace.
Some folks who are going into their accounts proactively to pay their bills can’t even get their payments to go through, according to ABC7. “This has affected tens of thousands of customers and many may not realize it. The problems are with Washington Gas’ online billing system where payments are not being accepted or bills are not being sent out.”
To round out the trifecta, some people who have auto-pay on have been getting notifications that their accounts have been suspended after trying to pay a bill, reports WTOP.
Want to hear how bad it is? This is a posting on ConsumerAffairs.com from someone who says they work at Washington Gas:
Im a Washington Gas service representative, Im responsible for taking the calls along with a few hundred other people. Ive been with the company just three short months and I see the way they treat their customers, there are a lot of hidden mistakes made that end up costing the customer an arm & a leg. Ive had customers call to inquire about their bills and even when me & the customers have done calculations and see the discrepancy, Im still told by my supervisors and higher ups that they’re still responsible for those bills. They’ve had systems errors since I started working for them and it doesn’t seem to get better, it only seems like a tactic to get more customers money.
I had a customer just yesterday, call in to ask why we hadn’t been processing his auto pay plan that he had been set up on for the past year. Of course, I had to reiterate the systems errors we’ve had, or at least that’s what Ive been told to say. He then goes on to tell me that there was no notification given to inform him of these changes, instead there was just a lump sum bill accumulating over time. He then told me, he called the customer service number to dispute that bill he got at the end of 6 months charging him over $900. He was set up on a payment plan as a courtesy so that he could pay in installments, only for Washington Gas to still send him to collections for non payment. As you can imagine, he was furious.
He read to me the letter he received from the collection agency and also made it very transparent, the change in his credit score. I informed my supervisor of the problem, and I was told to instruct my customer to THROW AWAY the notification he received from them and to disregard it. I did as I was told, also telling him my own input, which was not to discard it but to go to a walk in office and dispute it. The walk in offices are honestly more helpful than calling in, as rep Im just being honest. Im 21, a college student and Im even disgusted at how the company I work for operates. Its truly sad.
Because I was thinking about it, last week I logged into my account to see if I owed a bill, and sure enough, I owed two of them, with a late fee. I never got notified about the bill, and I’m still not sure if I will moving forward.
When you can’t trust a service provider’s payment system, it’s incredibly annoying to deal with. All we as consumers want to do is pay our bill and move on with our lives. There’s no reason why a service provider should have a broken payment system for more than 6 months. It’s just unacceptable.