Complaints: Columbia Gas of Ohio

From: “Keith Baker”
Date: February 23, 2006 2:36:14 PM EST
To: tips@consumerist.com
Subject: Columbia Gas of Ohio sucks.

I can’t put it more clear then that…

Seems Columbia Gas of Ohio’s automatic payment system screwed Keith over and double-dipped after he switched apartments. His story and our suggestions for alternative gas options, and yes, there’s a bean joke.

Keith continues:

I pay bills like everyone else. I take advantage of offers, I pay my bills on time, and I set up an automatic debit payment (I eye my online web bank account daily) and keep an eye on my balance. I do not own a credit card (made that mistake in college, paid it all off, and vowed to not get one until I’ve landed a job that I can pay off the full amount of the card in a month).

Then things get weird. I recently moved (same city, different zip code) and shut off services at the old place and established services at my new place – easy, right? Until I get my bill. I paid for my last month at the old place, paid for two months at my new place, and I notice an odd charge on my bill.

It showed my payment for the last month, and my charges for the current month. (roughly $50 is what I owed). Then it had an additional line of $221. No statement of what it was there for, why it is there, or anything. Today, I check my bank account, and I notice an automatic debit for $221 from my checking to Columbia Gas. I call, check my bill (You owe $0! You have a credit of $532!).

$532? They’re taking money out of my account, and crediting me for it, but leaving me with less money in my checking for what reason now? According to Columbia Gas… they don’t know why! I spend about 20 minutes on the phone (and their customer service was WAY better then most) and they resolved the system was taking twice the amount for payments at my old place – even though I was no longer having service there.

In the end? I’m getting $228 back. Of $500+. So now I’m filing a complaint with P.U.C.O. [ed. Public Utilities Commission of Ohio] and seeing what other ‘options’ I have, since I had to tell them to give me my money back and not let all this money sit there with them, and canceling the ‘auto-payment’ option.

I just wish I had another option for gas. (damned apartment living)


Peace!
-Keith

Alternate options for gas:

1) Beans.
2) Burn all your automatic debt payments in a pile in the center of the room.
3) Blankets. See #1.
4) Oldie but goody: To save on energy costs, install curtains. Keep them open during the date and closed at night (lets sun and warmth in and keeps it in).
5) 4) Bundle up in some sweaters, sissy.

Readers, how do you keep warm and heating costs down?

Comments

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  1. Hawkins says:

    I don’t know about reducing heating bills, but I do know what a bad idea these auto-pay schemes are: you sign a document that gives these drooling retards the legal right to suck any amount of money they want out of your checking account, whenever they feel like it.

    They’re a horrible deal for the consumer.

  2. Kluv says:

    Indeed, the only auto-pay you should ever allow, is the recurring payments you set-up yourself inside your online banking account. The “deals” companies offer you don’t make it worth it in the end, when in essence you’re just giving them carte blanche access to your hard-earned lettuce.

  3. Mike B. says:

    I’ve worked in CS long enough to know you NEVER set up automatic debit from a checking account. Even if the charges are totally unjustified, you’ve already paid the company your money and it’s up to them to give it back to you– a process they can make very slow and unpleasant. Plus if you get overdrawn the bank may charge fees– whether the withdrawls were valid or not :(

    With a credit card, you have some options for disputing it.

  4. Jen says:

    I’m with Mike B. on the credit care. I use my American Express to pay a lot of bills. A few uears ago when I had an issue with T-Mobile billing me an extra $200, I was having an awful time getting them to do anything about it until I contested the charges. At the end of my worst calls, the idiot at T-Mobile told me that he didn’t trust credit card companies. I told him that he had it all wrong, he shouldn’t trust cell phone companies.

  5. Paul D says:

    Does #4 really work?

  6. Ben Popken says:

    Yup.

  7. #4 works better if you have pelmets above your curtains. Otherwise convective air flow starts up when it’s cold outside and warm inside – you can feel the breeze blowing down behind the curtains, and it’s cool when it comes out the bottom.

    Also:
    6) Move to Australia :-).

  8. L_Emmerdeur says:

    I like to keep warm by calling such customer service centers and venting my rage to as many of their reps as possible.

    I figure if I ruin the days of 9 or 10 of their reps, karmic balance has been restored, and my body temperature remains elevated for hours.

    (Seriously, I do call them on the same unresolved issue over and over and over. I eventually i get a rep with IQ > 80 and resolve the problem).

  9. OkiMike says:

    Sleep with ferrets. That’ll do the trick!