Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) reports that as of the end of February 2015, more than 28,000 of its customers were four months or more behind on their utility bills. Even though this winter has been milder overall, that’s an increase of about 2,000 customers compared to 2014. WPS also reports that the amount of the arrears is about 5% higher than last year.
Customers could face disconnection of their utility service unless they make payments or arrangements. Arrangements must include a down payment based amount owed. State law bars utilities from disconnecting residential service from November 1 to April 15 annually.
“Unless we come to a payment arrangement with customers who are significantly behind, disconnection is a good possibility,” said Lisa Prunty, WPS spokesperson. “We owe it to our good-paying customers to be diligent in our efforts to collect.” WPS disconnected service to around 14,000 customers in 2014.
Customers who are behind and have not yet contacted the utility are urged to do so right away by calling (866) 215-5812. Waiting until near the end of the winter period when disconnects are not allowed will make it more difficult to make arrangements to keep service on, according to Prunty. “Those customers who contact us early to make arrangements are going to find we’re more flexible with payment options than those who wait,” she said.
Residential customers who have not qualified as low income and have not paid during the winter also face paying a security deposit equal to their highest four consecutive bills WPS currently holds security deposits of more than $3.2 million from more than 3,600 customers (WPS pays interest on the deposit).
Customers who struggle with winter bills could choose the WPS Budget Billing program, in which they pay an average bill monthly rather than seasonal high and low bills. WPS also has electronic options for payment listed on its Website: www.wisconsinpublicservice.com. Options include automatic monthly withdrawal from bank accounts, as well as one-time payments.
Most WPS locations no longer accept walk-in payments, but do have drop boxes. For a list of authorized pay stations, check: http://www.wisconsinpublicservice.com/home/locations.aspx. WPS reminds customers that payments to a drop box or pay station take 1 or 2 days to process.