Summit Utilities Now Charging Everyone a Service Fee?
While the transition from CenterPoint Energy to Summit Utilities has taken a long time, it seems the two companies have parted ways from their cooperative agreement.
While the Summit Utilities acquisition was made official earlier this year, CenterPoint has been handling the accounts and payments during the transition until November. Every customer was given a new account number, company contact information, and a new website to make account changes and payments.
While this mass migration in November didn't quite go without a single hitch, it was overwhelmingly smoother than anyone had anticipated. Like any change you make with such a large population, there were those that were left confused and looking for answers.
Here we are in the second month of Summit Utilities and a new surprise service fee appeared on bills across Oklahoma. $2.60 additional for most customers.
Why the sudden service fee?
I reached out to Summit Utilities about the service fees and received this response:
The $2.60 service fee that Summit customers are seeing is a fee collected by our third-party payment vendor, Paymentus. This fee applies to all payments made using credit or debit cards, guest payments, or payments made by phone. Customers can avoid the fee by setting up an online account and paying through their checking or savings account, setting up autopay with a checking or savings account, paying by mail, or by using an in-person payment site, like those found at Walmart. Summit has paid the service fee for a number of in-person payment sites, and customers can find the one nearest them on this website: https://www.checkfreepay.com/en/payment-locator.html.
Simply put, Summit Utilities isn't the energy giant CenterPoint was for us. They're not as big of a company. Because of this, Summit isn't equipped to handle its own payment processes, instead contracting this responsibility out to a third-party vendor. The service fee they charge is the cost of adding a link to your energy supply chain.
All the same, the service fee policy is similar to that of CenterPoint Energy. I've always used my direct debit checking account to avoid the various fees, something I've been able to do until now. I asked for a little clarification on the checking account thing. Perhaps it's a one-two double option to avoid fees, such as using a checking account plus automatic bill pay. This is the reply.
A fee would be charged if you made a guest payment (not registered on our site and logged in) or if you used a debit card (instead of routing/bank account number). We can take a look into this for your account specifically, but if you were logged in and using your bank account and routing numbers you should not have been charged a fee.
When I logged into my account to schedule my payment on the current bill, even though I use the direct debit checking account option to avoid the fees, this $2.60 service fee still appears on my bill.
While the media contact at Summit Utilities was more than helpful and even offered to look into my account, I realize that isn't in the scope of their job. Besides, the idea that I paid only $2.60 to stumble my way into discovering an accounting glitch is more exciting.
If you use your checking account and/or autopay for your Summit Utilities bill, you might double check you're not giving the growing company more than needs to. While $2.60 seems negligible to most, it can add up to record profits on accident.