Question: Can you find out why Hawaiian Electric suddenly wants me to pay a security deposit to establish credit? I have been a HECO customer for over 20 years. If I don’t have credit by now, who does? I have not moved in two years, missed my due date or ever bounced an electrical bill. The bill for the deposit is $243. My monthly bill runs $40 to $60. How is this calculated?
Answer: Hawaiian Electric says on its website that it might require a security deposit from customers who have not established credit with the company, and that the deposit amount may be based on the two highest consecutive bills within a 12-month period. The deposit accrues interest, and the total (deposit plus interest) is eventually credited to the customer’s account, refunded or a combination of both, the website say.
However, you are a longtime customer with a satisfactory payment history. So we followed up with Hawaiian Electric to find out if the notice you received — which said that your electricity could be cut off if you didn’t pay the deposit — was a scam or a mistake.
It’s the latter, mistakenly sent after you took your account off auto-pay, said company spokeswoman Shannon Tangonan. Here’s her full response:
“The notice asking for a security deposit was sent in error. The customer stopped automatic bill payment and the system mistakenly generated a notice asking for a deposit even though the account was in good standing. The deposit (notice) was reversed, and we are looking into the matter to ensure the error is not repeated. We ask that customers contact Hawaiian Electric if they feel they have received a notice in error or if they have questions about their bill. For those who are having a difficult time paying their bill, contact the company to set up a payment plan. The quickest way is to visit www.hawaiianelectric.com/CustomerServiceOptions and fill out a payment arrangement request form.”
Q: Is anyone else confused by their June HECO bill for May? I called and was confused by their explanation. Did they stop reading meters during the lockdown? Are they reading meters now?
A: Yes, others are confused; yes, Hawaiian Electric had stopped reading meters in March; and yes, it resumed doing so in May. Many residential customers are getting higher bills than expected as the company issues “true-up” bills based on actual use during the stay-at-home order.
Here is more information from a Hawaiian Electric news release:
>> Meter reading was scaled back in late March to deter the spread of COVID-19. Bills were estimated based on the customer’s use the prior month.
>> Meter reading resumed in May. Customers are now receiving “true-up” bills that reflect the household’s actual use. “For accounts that reduced energy use during the pandemic, the true-up bill will account for any overestimation from the prior estimated bill. For accounts that increased energy usage, the true-up bill will account for any underestimation from the prior estimated bill,” the news release said.
>> The average residential customer used more electricity in March, April and part of May, when stay-at-home orders kept many at home for work, school and other activities — running air conditioners, computers, lights, appliances, etc. “On average, residential customers used about 13 percent more electricity, with above-average users consuming as much as 17 percent more,” the news release said.
>> Any customer having trouble paying their bill should contact customer service to set up a payment plan. No late fees or interest will apply for now. Service disconnections for nonpayment are suspended through June 30.
Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email email@example.com.