Appalachian Power is the only company providing utility services to our region of Southwest Virginia and it would be putting it lightly to say that customers are upset each month after seeing the high cost of their winter utility bills despite their best efforts to conserve energy and keep costs down. “Financially crippling” or perhaps “financial hardship” would be a better description of what most customers experience when they open their bill.
It is not uncommon for the average bill in our area to exceed $500 but what happens when you start seeing other charges pop up on your bill? What does it mean? What does Appalachian Power have to say about it?
AEP has been adding “deferred deposits” to bills for a while now. Some customers experience $35 added to their initial bill while a majority of customers are seeing hundreds of dollars added to their bill under this description. What gives? Are they not already collecting enough money? Yes, we think so!
AEP claims that their deferred deposit fee that you see on your bill is in accordance with Virginia Code, the Administrative Code and AEP’s Terms and Conditions. They also state that the amount is based on 2/12 of the account holder’s billing history for the past year and if the account is paid on time for a period of 12 consecutive months, the deposit amount will be refunded with interest.
What AEP didn’t say in their statement is that they won’t actually refund your money. They will keep it and add credit to your account so in essence, you aren’t getting anything back in your pocket when you pay these deferred deposits.
We’ve heard from some in our area who are living on a fixed income, get paid certain days of the month or who are plain and simply unable to pay. This group seems to be the ones that are getting hit the hardest. Some have even contacted AEP requesting that their due date be changed so that it falls closer to the date their check arrives. In most cases, the company hasn’t obliged these requests and continues with their billing spree and efforts to find new ways to steal money from their customers.
For those who are simply unable to pay due to a lack of funds, they can expect to receive very little help from AEP and will likely be kicked while they are down. The company has a long history of not only charging “deferred deposits” but also charging astronomical disconnect and reconnect fees along with additional deposits when service is cut off. When people can’t afford to pay their unexpected and financially crippling electric bill in the first place, it doesn’t help their situation when a huge corporate company monopolizing the market adds more fees making basic services completely unattainable.
For those qualifying for utility assistance, they do not actually get a lot of help if the money that is put on their account won’t even cover the actual cost of electricity use because it was applied to fees that mounted up when services were shut off or bills were paid slightly late but perhaps in full. Additionally, these fees do nothing but help drain and squeeze charitable organization’s resources.
Many of those affected do pay their bills on time and have accounts in good standing but they struggle to do so; adding additional service fees seems uncontainable in those cases.
If you’re having difficulty paying your utility bill this winter, you can check with your local Department of Social Services to see if there’s assistance available for you or you could check with one of the many churches in your community. Aside from that, if you want to take a stand against this rapidly growing problem in our area, you can contact your representatives. You will need to look to your elected Delegates and Senators since they are the ones passing House Bills that add to the woes of our citizens who get handed the bottom line cost in the form of high utility bills. Additionally, the State Corporation Commission accepts complaints on these issues from consumers across the state.