Jan 22, 2004 – Sen. Carlton Dowe is calling on the Water and Power Authority executive director, Alberto Bruno-Vega, to let the utility's consumers know how much interest has accrued on their electric service deposits.
Dowe wrote Bruno-Vega asking him to conduct a campaign to educate consumers about WAPA's accrued interest policy, citing the law governing that policy. The law states that "WAPA must advise customers about the amount of interest they have accrued." And also, it says, "the customer may, upon application therefor on forms prescribed and furnished by the utility, obtain periodic payments of accumulated interest prior to the termination of service."
Customers must post a $100 deposit plus a $25 service fee to initiate service, and Dowe said on Thursday morning that he believes WAPA to be holding about $4 million in accrued interest on deposits.
Bruno-Vega, told the figure, said he thought it was "too high."
Maurice Sebastien, WAPA's acting chief financial officer, faxed the current figures to the Source on Thursday afternoon: The utility, which has "roughly 50,000 customers," according to Sebastien, is holding $4,814,700 in interest on $11,741,325 in customer deposits.
The law also says "the utility shall disclose to the customer, with its final billing statement in each calendar year, the amount of interest accrued for that calendar year, and the total amount of interest which has accumulated." WAPA's end-of-calendar-year bills show the interest earned for that year, but not the accumulated interest.
There are some utility companies that regularly rebate the interest on deposits to customers or apply it to one of their bills, Dowe said. This has not been WAPA's policy.
Dowe said he has seen where the interest appears on customers' bills, but he doesn't think customers are aware of what it the figure represents, or of their option to apply the amount as payment toward their bill. The senator said he is mainly concerned about retirees living on fixed incomes who could benefit from their accumulated interest.
Bruno-Vega said on Thursday that the utility's governing board is working out a procedure so that whenever customers ask for their interest, "we can credit it to their account." But, he added, "The board wanted to go beyond that. We should somehow initiate a procedure where instead of disconnecting [on past due bills], we can use the accrued interest to pay for the bill."
First, he said, "we want to formalize the policy. And once the new procedure is approved by the board, we will inform the public so they can take advantage of this." The new policy will be addressed at the board's February meeting, he said.
Sebastien said customers do come by WAPA's offices to lay claim to their interest from time to time. "They can leave it there, apply it to their bill, or take it out in cash," he said. "However, since the interest is calculated at 4.34 percent, it's a good investment."
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