BG&E; to offer customers automatic deduction


Are you tired of the hassle of writing a check each month to the power company? Do you worry about whether you mailed it on time or if you paid the right amount?

If you are, the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. has a deal for you.

Starting in June, customers will have the option of allowing the utility to automatically deduct monthly electric and gas bills from their checking accounts.

The program, dubbed "BG&Easy;," is similar to the growing number of automatic payment plans offered by insurance companies, health clubs, credit cards and even churches.

About 150,000 companies and institutions nationwide make 2 billion automatic bill transactions each year, according to Lee A. Bindseil, president of the Mid-Atlantic Clearing House Association, a Linthicum Heights-based group of financial institutions. And the number is growing by 15 to 18 percent annually, he said.

Customers who sign up for the program will continue to receive their BG&E; bills every month in the mail. But instead of mailing in checks, the bill amount will be deducted from their checking or savings accounts on the due date -- generally 20 days after a BG&E; bill is received.

Information about the program and sign-up forms are being sent to BG&E;'s 1.2 million residential customers in this month's bills. Along with the application, a voided check must be sent to BG&E.;

"It's simply designed as an additional customer service," said Kenneth P. Goodman, the project coordinator for BG&Easy.; "It's designed for convenience."

Mr. Goodman said BG&Easy; would cut the cost of processing individual bills by more than 75 percent.

Mr. Goodman said he hoped 30,000 to 40,000 customers would join the program in the first year.

Potomac Electric Power Co., which supplies electricity to Washington and most of Montgomery and Prince George's counties, has been offering an automatic payment program since 1987, according to company spokeswoman Nancy Moses. However, only 13,300 of the company's 509,000 residential customers, or 2.6 percent, are enrolled, she said.

Delmarva Power & Light Co., which provides electricity to the Eastern Shore, has offered automatic bill payment since the early 1980s, according to spokesman Wally Judd.

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