OG&E to resume disconnects for customers who don't pay their bills
Oklahoma Gas and Electric is about to resume its policy to disconnect customers who don’t pay their bills, it announced Wednesday.
The company, which voluntarily agreed to suspend that activity at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, also announced Wednesday it will give customers who are behind on their bills a couple of ways to pay off what they owe without losing their service.
Brian Alford, OG&E spokesman, said the utility estimates it has about 25,000 customers who haven’t paid their bills for COVID-19-related reasons.
Options include a six-month installment plan where a customer can repay a past-due balance over that time without any late fees.
Customers can also switch an account over to the utility’s Average Monthly Billing plan, which calculates a monthly bill based on a customer’s average usage over a rolling, 12-month period.
Under that program, bill amounts vary only slightly. Plus, any past due balances a customer owed would be spread over that year-long period, along with associated late fees.
Additionally, customers needing help with their electric bills are encouraged to seek it using OG&E’s Lend-a-Hand program offered through the Salvation Army.
That program offers utility customers the opportunity to get one-time financial assistance, using dollars provided by customers who donate money for the program through their electric bills.
“Some customers struggled with the economic effects of COVID-19 and have had to delay payments due to illness or job loss,” Alfor said.
“While the disconnect process is resuming, we’re committed to working with those affected during these tight times.
“We’ve taken steps to broaden our payment options to be more flexible and to give customers billing options and an extended time frame to repay their past due balances.”
Alford said any customers at risk of experiencing interrupted service due to non-payment will in the coming weeks receive several notices from the company before being disconnected.
OG&E officials said customers who are current in their bills, meanwhile, can take advantage of other programs offered by the utility to help them lower their energy costs.
Under the utility’s Guaranteed Flat Bill program, a customer and the utility agree on a flat monthly price for service that covers an entire year. The bill is the same regardless of usage, and customers aren’t liable for any overages during the term.
Customers can also enroll in OG&E’s SmartHours program. That offering, effective from June 1 through Sept. 30 annually, gives customers a price break on electricity they use during off-peak hours during the week and throughout weekends. On average, enrolled customers have saved more than $150 during a typical summer, officials said.
The utility also offers qualifying residential customers weatherization and Home Energy Efficiency programs and business customers energy efficiency programs and rebates.
Earlier this year, the utility lowered the cost of what it charges customers per kilowatt hour for power because of lower-than-forecast costs for natural gas it uses to help generate the electricity.