Gripes continue over BGE Web upgrade

BGE has upgraded its billing and payment software on the Web site. Customers continue to complain about delays in confirming their banking information, about long waits on the customer-service phone lines and now about bills that never got sent out.

Ron Griffin, who lives in Baltimore, says he didn't receive BGE bills on three residential rental accounts for December. He would like to pay them, but he says he can't. He usually pays each month using his bank's bill-paying Web site and software. But not only doesn't he know the new account numbers, he didn't even receive an invoice for the accounts.

"It presents a cash-flow issue for a small business," he said. "You want to pay your bills before they mount up." Plus, like other BGE customers, he's worried about racking up late fees and nasty reports to credit agencies. So he calls BGE customer service:  410.685.0123. He gets the robot message: "The waiting time to speak with a representative may exceed four minutes." He waits a half hour and gives up. He tries again later. Waits for a half hour and gives up. Then he emails me. I have heard from several frustrated customers like him.

BGE of course tries to put a positive face on this, saying all software upgrades of this complexity have glitches, they hired extra phone reps, the benefits will be worth it etc. Apparently the euphemism for using customers as unpaid beta testers is "the stabilization period," which can take weeks.  

About 10,000 bills that should have gone out didn't or were delayed, BGE says. If you didn't get your bill BGE says to call (I know, I know) or email Another group of people who have issues are the 175,000 accounts who pay using BGE's Web site. They have to re-enter their checking account information and wait three business days for the bank to verify it, say BGE officials.

If you pay through BGEasy, in which BGE automatically electronically withdraws what you owe each month from your checking account, you don't have to do anything. But people who pay through the Web site must re-enter their bank info.

In any event, BGE says they won't ding people for late fees if customers didn't get their bills on time or had trouble paying because of the changes. "As long as they get in touch with us and let us know they've had challenges with it, we're going to extend their due date," says BGE spokesman Rob Gould.

Getting in touch with them, however, seems to be easier said than done. What BGE ought to do is waive all late fees until they get this sorted out.

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