Woman fights PG&E and gets deposit waived

Woman fights PG&E and gets deposit waived »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- A Bakersfield woman who did battle with Pacific Gas and Electric got them to drop demands for a hefty deposit. Reyna Duckett complained to the California Public Utilities Commission, and said she got almost immediate results.

Duckett is one of the PG&E customers who was required to pay a deposit when she got behind paying her power bills. Duckett said the power company told her she had been late five times this year, and they notified her about the deposit requirement.

"They sent me a letter saying, OK -- we're charging you $300 to re-establish your credit, and it's going to be put on your next bill," Duckett told Eyewitness News Wednesday.

Duckett said she called PG&E to complain about the extra fee, and was transferred to someone in the San Francisco office.

"I said, OK -- I'm going to file a complaint with the Public Utilities Commission," Duckett said she told the company rep. "She's -- well, you can file a complaint, but it's not going to do any good because we have a right to do it."

Unfazed, Duckett went online to the PUC Website and filed her complaint. She got a letter dated December 10, promising a review. The letter said it would take at least a month.

But, this week Duckett got a response -- from PG&E. A spokeswoman called Duckett on Tuesday night.

"If you sign up for the auto-payment plan, we'll just put it (the deposit) aside," Duckett said she was told. Duckett counts that as a victory.

"If you make enough fuss, and put in the complaint, they're going to change their attitude a little bit," Duckett said.

Eyewitness News checked with PG&E on the deposit issue. Spokeswoman Nicole Liebelt said signing up for the automatic payment plan is one way to satisfy the requirement for a deposit.

Liebelt said the option of using the auto-payment instead of a deposit was started on December 16. She said a customer must agree to enroll in the auto-pay plan for 12 months.

A number of PG&E customers have complained about the demand for the big deposits. Taft resident Don Thornsberry said he was hit by a deposit request after his family got behind in payments, and even after they tried to make payment arrangements.

"Right after we got on the Care program, they sent us a letter, stating that we were going to have to pay this $917 deposit," Thornsberry said earlier this month. He planned to get a co-signer on their utility account, to avoid the deposit.

Bakersfield resident Eyvonne Hetblack was also socked with a demand for a deposit, when she was struggling with her power bills.

"At the time we got a bill we can afford to pay on time, they hit us with a $266 deposit," Hetblack said. She couldn't get a co-signer, they hoped to spread the deposit fee over three months.

PG&E spokeswoman Nicole Liebelt added that any customer who had paid the deposit, could get that back, if they agreed to enroll in the automatic payment plan.

Duckett is just relieved her family doesn't have to pay the big deposit, and she's glad she spoke up and complained. She's convinced the complaint to the PUC made the difference -- it's something the PG&E spokesman mentioned when she got the offer to go on auto payments.

"They would never come forward and said -- oh, if you sign up for this, we'll take away the $300," Duckett said. "They never had said that to me before, until last night when they called."

PG&E's Liebelt said the company will work with customers having trouble paying bills. But she said if they are asked for a deposit -- they can, and should -- ask about signing up for the auto payment plan in lieu of the deposit.