March 20, 2017 10:27:14 AM
Alex Holloway - [email protected]
A third-party payment provider is causing frustration for some local utility companies and their customers.
Mike Bernsen, comptroller for Columbus Light and Water, said Doxo -- a Seattle, Washington-based company that lets users pay utility and other bills from one hub -- has fueled less than convenient consequences for some customers.
"These guys are just like a bank when a bank says they're going to do your online payments for you," Bernsen said. "It comes out of your account and a third-party payer sends it to us. The problem is when people use this payer, it can take seven to 10 days before we see the payment. It may come out of their account earlier, but we can't give them credit until we see it physically in our account."
The delay in a customer making a payment and CLW actually receiving the money has led to late payments in some cases, and even accidental disconnects, Bernsen said.
"We had one lady (Friday) that actually got cut off," Bernsen said. "She waited until the last minute. She got her disconnect notice. She made a payment (on Doxo) on Monday and it was too late.
"She was thinking as soon as she made a payment we'd get it in our account," he added. "We had not yet seen it and a disconnect order had already gone out, so that's what happened to her. I've been on the phone for about an hour-and-a-half trying to get that straight with her, but we finally got it ironed out."
He said part of the issue is Doxo's web portal for Columbus Light and Water can be the first, or one of the first, results that comes up on a Google search for CLW. The page uses CLW's logo, and he said it can be confusing for customers who don't see the web address or disclaimer at the bottom of the page noting that the logo belongs to CLW.
He also noted Doxo charges usage fees to customers to cover its business costs, while CLW does not.
"About once a week we get the complaint, and it's hard to explain to people that it's not us," Bernsen said. "Eventually the check will get to us, but if you pay through our site, you get immediate credit."
Starkville Utilities Department General Manger Terry Kemp said his department has seen occasional issues with customers using third-party payers like Doxo.
"It's been sporadic, but occasionally we'll run into it," he said. "... The few times we've had it does cause some challenges and issues with our customers in terms of expectations on their parts (for when SUD receives payments). We would discourage people to use those types of services."
Roger Parks, a spokesperson for Doxo, said complaints such as CLW's or SUD's are uncommon.
He said Doxo encourages users to be aware of the delay when using the service to pay bills.
"We tell you this payment method will take this many days," Parks said. "How many days it takes depends on the provider. If we can send electronically, it's faster. In the case of a check, it could take seven to nine days.
"We calculate the actual day we send the check and when it will arrive," he added. "We ask you to confirm that -- in many cases we ask customers to check a box asking if they understand it. We don't want people to be late. If you're going to be late with a payment, we are not the service to use."