LACONIA — On the heels of reading that Eversource had suspended its policy of requesting deposits from customers in arrears, Al's Auto Service on Court Street, which has been a customer of Public Service Company of New Hampshire — and its successors Northeast Utilities and Eversource — for the past 21 years, was surprised to receive a request this week for a deposit from the company.
Lauren Collins, speaking for Eversource, explained yesterday that the practice of requesting deposits from delinquent customers was suspended until April 1, 2016, but only for residential — not commercial — customers. She said that she was not authorized to comment on the circumstances of individual customers, which in the case of Al's Auto Service appear puzzling.
Al Raper explained that his company has two accounts, one for each of two adjacent buildings at 300 and 304 Court Street. He acknowledged that neither of the bills due on September 1, one of $88.24 for 304 Court Street and another of $46.84 for 300 Court Street, were paid on time. However, on October 8, both bills were paid with checks of $188.24 and $146.84, consisting of what was owed on September plus $100. Moreover, on October 22, the bill of $229.30 due October 30 was paid in advance.
Nevertheless, on October 21 Raper received a request for a security deposit of $260, on the account for 304 Court Street, which was dated October 13 and postmarked October 15 only to be received six days later. He was told if the deposit was not paid by October 29, the electricity to 304 Court Street would be disconnected.
Alternatively, Raper could enroll in Eversource's auto-pay system and have his monthly bills withdrawn from his checking account 21 days after the billing date. Or, the deposit could be paid in three equal installments. Or, his payment could be guaranteed by a third party. Or, he could purchase a surety bond from an insurance company and mail a copy to Eversource. The utility would keep the deposit until bills were paid on time for 24 consecutive months, when it would be refunded with any accrued interest.
Raper insists that his accounts are not only current, but that there are outstanding credits on both and sees no reason to post a deposit.. "They have more of my money than I have of their electricity," he said.
Raper said that he tried to speak with someone at Eversource, but was unable to reach a representative of the company. Meanwhile, Robert Fisher, a Republican from Laconia serving in the New Hampshire House of Representatives who has taken an interest in Eversource's policy of requesting deposits, referred Raper to the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Raper said he spoke with someone at the PUC who simply assured him the utility was entitled to request the deposit.
Fisher intends to introduce a bill that would address such situations by prohibiting utilities from requesting deposits from customers whose accounts are current in anticipation that they may make late payments or fall into arrears in the future.
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