FirstEnergy Service Company faces a proposed class action that claims the electric utility provider charges West Virginia customers who make payments online or by phone illegal “pay-to-pay” fees.
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The 14-page lawsuit says the defendant, a subsidiary of major utility company FirstEnergy Corporation, “routinely” violates state law by “deceptively” collecting “E-Z Pay” fees, convenience fees or processing fees each time a consumer uses online or telephone payment systems to pay a bill.
The “pay-to-pay” fees are not approved by the Public Service Commission, a state agency that regulates public utilities, nor does any law or customer contract authorize FirstEnergy to assess such charges, the suit contends.
The case alleges that although the company represents the “inflated” fees as service charges to cover the cost of collecting and processing consumer payments, the defendant, in fact, pays “next to nothing” for this procedure.
“These fees ‘nickel and dime’ FirstEnergy’s captive consumers while providing hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue to it, even though consumers’ agreements with FirstEnergy do not expressly provide for the fees and no law authorizes charging them,” the complaint argues.
The plaintiff, a FirstEnergy customer in West Virginia, says she was charged “pay-to-pay” fees ranging from $4 to $16.77 each time she paid her bill online or by phone using the company’s E-Z Pay payment system.
“The fees charged can add up to hundreds of dollars over the life of a single customer’s account, providing FirstEnergy with hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit (if not more),” the filing stresses.
The lawsuit looks to represent anyone who had a FirstEnergy residential utility agreement on a West Virginia property and paid a fee for making a payment online or by phone to the defendant within four years prior to the date a class is certified.
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