Dear PoPville – Did you know that you can cancel any other Pepco customer’s account?

Dear PoPville,

I had an incredibly frustrating experience today with PEPCO that I thought other residents should be aware of. I received a call from a collection agency this morning on behalf of PEPCO. This was particularly odd, since my PEPCO billing is set to auto-pay and I haven’t made any changes in almost two years. After calling PEPCO directly, I discovered that someone else called and requested a final bill on my account (i.e., closed and deactivated my account!) back in September. I own my home and I’m not selling it. Apparently, ANYONE can call – without proof of residence or ownership – and say they’re moving into your address (which cancels your account). PEPCO does not call, email, or otherwise contact you when this happens (except for apparently sending a paper bill, which I never received, and wouldn’t have paid attention to anyway since I’m enrolled in auto-pay). Best of all, if you are on auto-pay PEPCO doesn’t even automatically charge the final amount (so you end up with an overdue account)!.

I managed to get my “old” account sorted out and a new account number setup, pay the past due amount, and submit the request to have my credit report fixed – but now I have a collections request on my credit report and I’m in the processing of refinancing my house. Needles to say, I am livid.

I had no idea this was possible and it seems like a huge flaw in PEPCO’s system. I am infuriated and I thought PoPville should be aware.

56 Comment

  • Par for the course at Pepco…

  • It’s amazing how many breaches there are like this. The post office is the same way – you can place a hold on anyone’s mail (online even!) without any sort of ID or verification of who you are. My asshole ex has my mail held often enough that I’ve taken out a PO Box as a security precaution.

  • They sent you a note. You ignored it. What should they have done? Knocked on your door? Went to your job? If you expected them to verify every move notice, we’d all see our big rise.

    • T

      1) I would expect them to ask for proof of residency or ownership at the service address before allowing changes to the account at that address (copy of lease agreement, deed, etc).

      2) I would expect that they would have a mechanism in place whereby you can prohibit move notices from being processed at your service address (they do not).

      3) I would expect them to call you to verify any changes to your account.

      • Mechanisms cost money. I’d prefer they focus on a mechanism to prevent power from going out during storms.

        They have a mechanism, It’s called the mail. You need a mechanism for opening your mail.

        • Because clearly a business can only focus on one mechanism at a time. I guess it’s better to have someone screw with your credit than be without power though.

        • The user said that the “letter” they received in the mail was just a bill, and if they have automatic payment set up, their bill payments were already taken care off.

          Unless the envelope also said “THIS IS YOUR FINAL STATEMENT” on the outside, its perfectly reasonable for them to have ignored the bill that was sent.

      • Yeah, I think you’re screwed man–they sent you a letter. That’s how the world works. Suck it up and realize you should open your mail in order to avoid all of these issues.

        • T

          I see your point, but to be clear, they did NOT send a letter – they sent a copy of the paper bill they send every month even when you’re enrolled in auto-pay…

      • 1,2, &3) proof of residency came when they sent the letter to your house… if you ignored it, oh well….. and you can’t ignore things just because you’re enrolled in autopay. if i’d ignored the letter i got from my mortgage holder, i would have ignored a big fat check…. don’t become complacent. complacency starts with letting someone freely take from your bank account because it’s easier for you to not pay attention.

    • Um, the OP said they never got a letter. How do we know Pepco actually sent it?

    • OP said s/he did NOT receive a note – “except for apparently sending a paper bill, which I never received-” So get all high and mighty about something else.

  • I had a similar experience with Comcast….After telling my story about seven different times to seven different people I was told had to go direct with the collection agency because it was out of their hands at that point. The thing was the collection agency didn’t have any contact information. I had to do some detective work but managed to find a number and can you believe the collection agency was supportive and cleared it all up right away! She assured me, and as correct, that my credit was fine as well. Here’s to removing the monopolies and inserting some real customer service and support into our daily lives. I moved and had to get Comcast again because there were no other options……Luckily my boyfriend pays the Pepco bill……

    • Mr. Lumbergh told me to talk to payroll and then payroll told me to talk to Mr. Lumbergh and I still haven’t received my paycheck and he took my stapler and he never brought it back and then they moved my desk to storage room B and there was garbage on it…

  • Some of my enemies are soon going to find out they’re without power

    • Seriously! Why would PoP post this? We’re not all angels here…

    • The flaw in your plan is that they don’t cut off power; they put the account in collection. (The OP still had power, remember?)

      Don’t be a dick.

      • Oh, sorry anonymous, you’re right. Having your account in collection is totally harmless, so posting this is totally okay! The OP doesn’t sound pissed off at all!

  • It seems like much of this could be resolved if Pepco required the last 4 digits of a persons social security number before an account deactivation. That said – I get an email from Pepco every month with my bill pay confirmation. Not sure how you can go three months without noticing your utility hasn’t charged you, and ignoring their mail…

    • I think this sums it up for me. Seems like there should be some token effort to verify that a stop service request was made by the owner of the property and/or person responsible for paying the bill.

      BUT, you gotta know what bills you are paying and are not paying each month (especially if they are on auto-pay.) And if you ignore the notices you do get (email, mail) then you probably won’t notice if they stop coming altogether.

      • That’s the trick, though – this wasn’t a “stop service” or disconnect order. Someone didn’t call and say “I want this guy’s power turned off.” He called and said “I’m moving in here and want to take over the power bill.” The electricity was never disconnected and someone was always responsible for the bill (OP originally, then the person who called to assume the account). So why would PEPCO care? It’s similar to a bank letting you deposit money into someone else’s account.

  • This was likely just an error on the part of a customer, or a Pepco employee keyboard slip or something. Companies like Pepco and Comcast cut down on cost and customers visiting service locations by not asking for proof of residency when there isn’t a real need for one. Yes, mistakes happen, but they are being smart by not requiring hoop jumping for something like a cancellation. You were unlucky and it sucks, happens to people every day.

  • That sucks. I had a similar issue — an unpaid bill showed up on my credit report (long story — my ex had run up bills in my name, which unfortunately is legal if you’re married). Two of the three credit agencies removed the collections notice from my account, but Experian just refused to do anything helpful. I also was in the process of refinancing and my Experian score was dismal because of this one issue. I ended up filing a complaint with the brand new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and within 2 weeks the issue was resolved — this after 6 MONTHS of me going back and forth between the collections agency (supremely unhelpfu) and experian (downright nasty and unhelpful).

    good luck!

  • Something similar happened to me with Verizon (cable + phone), and I was able to set up my account so that you needed a password when calling to make any changes/inquiry. About 30% of the time the call center actually remembered to ask for this when I did call about my account…..

  • It sounds like similar things have happened to a lot of people (whether it’s PEPCO, another utility, a cable company, the gym, whatever). My girlfriend has had a couple of incidents like yours, although not with PEPCO.

    The good news is it’s pretty easy to get this stuff removed from your credit report– the bad news is that does involve some work. Do it now before you forget, or else you’ll have to wait a month or longer to get it resolved the next time you want to refinance or take out a loan.

    I do wish these companies would do more than just send a letter (which is not exactly a foolproof way of making sure the recipient gets the message) before turning the account over to a collection agency.

  • This wasn’t a cancellation, it was a transfer. Someone either gave the wrong address or account number, or PEPCO made a clerical error transferring your account to someone else (the “new resident”).

    They don’t confirm residency because who would call up wanting to assume a power bill that isn’t theirs? They certainly do confirmations for cancellations/disconnections.

  • What I’m wondering is why doesn’t PEPCO let you auto-pay the final amount? So in addition to everything else someone has to deal with when moving, they have to know to manually pay a bill that would normally take care of itself?

  • Yeah, I thought it was weird when I moved into my apartment and called Pepco to put the account in my name that they didn’t ask for any proof that the old tenant was moving out and I was the new tenant.

  • I have a friend that had an obnoxious and mean neighbor who canceled a couple of things like utilities in this manner.

  • Is anyone else a little confused… didn’t you notice your power turn off in Sept? If not, does that mean this other mystery person who asked for a final bill has been paying your Pepco bill since Sept?

    • My understanding had been that Pepco doesn’t (usually?) turn off the power when you ask for your account to be closed. They just keep it on and wait for the next occupant to call them to set up an account.

      Maybe if the residence racks up huge power bills in between, they might actually turn it off… but my impression was that most of the time, they just leave it alone.

      • ah

        +1. They would have to come out and remove the meter to do this.

        • When I moved into a new apartment a few months ago, I forgot to get the electricity put in my name. After about a week, i recieved a letter saying that I had 10 days to officially start service, or they would turn off the electricity.

  • PDMtP

    Dear PoPville 2013,

    I just moved into a new apartment, and I’m trying to get the power turned on. But they’re telling me I can’t do it unless I come down, in person, during office hours with a photo ID and a copy of my lease!! This is ridiculous – I can’t afford to take a day off work to deal with this. Can’t those idiots come up with a better system? I’m just trying to take responsibility for the bill.

    -Murphy

  • I think there is some sort of consumer protection agency at the DC Government that looks into things like this. Specifically for Pepco even. Not sure of the name though

  • This is exactly why I don’t do AutoPay with any of my bills. Not using AutoPay makes me look at my bills each month,therefore, I can address an issue immediately.

  • I just started paying our Pepco bill online and noticed that the security setup for their system is incredibly weak, even for someone like me who is not a hacker or anything. It’s also bad. The bill is in my husband’s name but I pay them, but their system still barrels along taking payments from my checking account but under his name, which makes no sense.
    It’s almost like we ALL ought to go in and shut down everybody else’s accounts randomly to force them to fix their system. Obviously designed by someone who was NOT a top of the line programmer.

  • The same thing happened to me. I received a bill from Pepco with someone else’s name on it sent to my address. I opened the bill and noticed there was a $40 service connection charge, but I had never discontinued my service. It took several phone calls and a letter to Pepco stating that I still lived in my home and never moved and never disconnected my service before they changed it. My guess is that it is a scam to get proof of residence. Someone will call Pepco say they are moving into the residence and to change the bill to their name. They then get a new account number, go online and print out a copy of the bill. Presto they now have proof of residence using a utility bill.

  • When I moved in to this apartment, I got a bill in the mail from Pepco for the previous tenant for some $600, because he never closed it out.

    I had to spend an afternoon going down to Pepco HQ to convince them that yes, I live in this apartment now, while getting yelled at for opening someone else’s mail.

    Apparently I should have just called to cancel his bill and then have free power!

  • We had the same thing happen with both Pepco and Washington Gas, although luckily caught it before it went to collection (although the only way I knew about it was because our alternative supplier, Clean Currents, emailed me about my Pepco account being closed). Yes, I keep up to date on my bills, and yes, I caught the issue before it messed up my credit, but I can vouch for the fact that it was a HUGE pain in the butt to get it sorted out (involving no fewer than 5 painful phone calls to Pepco and messed up billing for the next few months after the incident). Washington Gas, on the other hand, was actually extremely helpful in that they fixed the issue with one phone call and I never had any issues with billing. I am not sure I know of the proper solution, but it was supremely frustrating to have someone cancel my accounts when I a) own my house b) have lived there for over 2 years c) am not moving and d) don’t have any renters or tenants.

  • So someone says they are moving in and want the account transferred? Wouldn’t Pepco change the account number automatically? If a new person wanted to transfer existing account, Pepco has to speak with the owner/names on the account. Why would a new tenant/homeowner want to take on someone else’s account instead of setting up their own account? If the account is transferred from person a to person b, wouldn’t the account number change and then the auto-pay feature wouldn’t work because it would be trying to apply it to a different account? What would be the point of transferring the account other than messing with someone and being a royal PITA? The new person wouldn’t be getting electrical services syphoned this way?

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