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Commission Helps Utility Customers Solve Billing Issues



February 28, 2014 (2014-04)

Contacts: Susan Ackerman, Chair, 503 378-6611, Stephen Bloom, Commissioner, 503 378-6611, John Savage, Commissioner, 503 378-6611, Bob Valdez, Public Affairs Specialist, 503 378-8962
Salem, OR. In the last five years Oregon utility customers got more than $801,718 in various charges removed from their bills due to efforts by the Oregon Public Utility Commission’s Consumer Services staff.
In 2013, the Commission’s Consumer Section recovered over $190,000, that’s an increase of $50,000 compared with 2012, and the most in the same five-year period beginning in 2009.
The Consumer Services Section gets involved when customers are not able to come to an agreement with their utility. “We work with these companies on a daily basis, so we know who to speak with to try and help customers who think they are not being treated fairly or are a victim of a scam,” Consumer Section Manager Phil Boyle said. “Quite often the issues are complicated and require a high level of expertise and experience, which fortunately our employees can provide. The public needs to know we are here to help them.”
 Some of the issues the Commission helped consumers with:
·          Refunding incorrect early termination wireless fees
·          Out-of-service telephone credits
·          Cramming (unauthorized third party charges onto phone bills)
·          Incorrectly billed wireless charges
·          Incorrectly estimated energy bills
·          Incorrect rate schedules
Examples of 2013 billing cases
A wireless company overbilled the Oregon State Police (OSP) for text messaging on devices that had unlimited texting as part of their plan, or devices that don’t have the ability to text. The resolution resulted in a $6,453 refund to OSP.
VTM group began receiving long distance charges from a national long distance carrier for a phone number that did not belong to the customer. The phone number at issue had been taken over by a different company who had failed to properly port the number, so the long distance provider began billing VTM at random user rates because they did not have an account set up for the number.  Once it was revealed that this situation was not the fault of VTM, the long distance provider agreed to reverse $42,595.17 in charges.
A customer discovered that a wireless carrier had been charging them for a cellular account that the customer had closed in 2006.  Consumer Services contacted the carrier seeking a refund of the charges and the company agreed to refund 50% of the charges amounting to $1,867.41
Toll-free PUC Consumer Hotline 1-800-522-8404