Some say Summit’s gas bills are a problem

Dozens of Summit Utilities natural gas customers have reported receiving multiple bills this month for the same service period and are having trouble getting through to customer service representatives.

A spokesperson for Summit said Wednesday that the utility has made a “massive effort” to take over billing duties inherited from former service provider CenterPoint Energy.

George Peters Sr. said he received three separate bills from Summit for the same time period in recent weeks.

Peters received his first bill in recent weeks and sent his payment via US mail as usual.

“Two days later I got another bill from Summit and it was a higher bill, but it was for the same service period, so that surprised me a bit,” said Peters.

“Then I received another bill for the same service period last Saturday. It was a different amount, they were all for different amounts,” said Peters.

Peters, who lives in North Little Rock, said he contacted the State Public Service Commission — which regulates intrastate rates and services of public utilities in Arkansas — after he couldn’t reach anyone at Summit who could help him.

Peters said the commission advised him to pay the first bill and that the commission had been called by other customers who had received multiple bills.

“Until this month, we were told to pay our checks at CenterPoint, so that’s the way I did it. So this last time they didn’t have any reference to CenterPoint and apparently we had to check out of Summit,” Peters said.

Summit Utilities supplies natural gas to 525,000 customers in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texarkana, Texas, and operates 17,000 miles of pipeline to its service areas. It purchased CenterPoint’s natural gas distribution systems in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texarkana, Texas, in January.

Jeff Hilton, interim director of the Public Service Commission, said dozens of customer complaints have been filed with the commission’s consumer services division about Summit Utilities.

Summit updated its billing system on November 1 and since then: “Our consumer service office had 46 informal complaints mostly about billing issues, trying to understand their bill, etc., and then some additional complaints about Summit’s customers not being able to to understand their bill. get through it,” Hilton said.

Hilton said about 50 Summit customers also asked the commission about access to Summit’s customer service representatives, the status of Summit’s website and, to a lesser extent, a delay in payment posting.

Hilton said he is not aware of the details of the company’s response, but said it is working to resolve the issues and has sent additional information.

“When specific questions we get, we make sure the company is aware of them,” Hilton said.

Hilton, who is also a Summit customer and receives billing notifications from the company via email, said the company sent an informational email note on Nov. 20.

CenterPoint provided certain services, such as customer service and billing on behalf of Summit until Nov. 1, while the two companies worked to securely transfer customer account information and data from CenterPoint, said Lizzy Reinholt, senior vice president of corporate affairs, sustainability and marketing at Summit Utilities.

“Which means that customers have been given new account numbers and are now using a new payment portal to manage their accounts, among other things,” says Reinholt.

“This is a massive effort that includes a new computer system and more than a dozen software systems. Such an undertaking is of course bumpy in the beginning.”

Reinholt said there were some issues with customer invoices that required a second corrected invoice to be sent and longer-than-normal customer service wait times during the transition from CenterPoint.

“We understand that these issues can be confusing and frustrating for our customers, so at this time we have waived late fees and suspended interruptions as we work to resolve issues related to the transition and address concerns from customers,” says Reinholt.

Summit hired more than 150 new customer service representatives to answer customer questions in preparation for the transition from CenterPoint; 100 of those workers are based in Arkansas, Reinholt said.

“We are currently hiring additional support to meet customer needs,” she said.

Summit’s call center opens at 7 a.m. on weekdays and normally closes at 7 p.m.; however, during the transition, the call center will be kept open longer in the evening to answer queued calls each day, Reinholt said.

“We have worked hard to be candid and transparent with our customers, the communities we serve and other stakeholders, knowing that every transition – especially one of this magnitude – has its challenges,” she said.

Summit is part of a collective of utilities owned and operated by Summit Utilities, Inc., operating in six states.

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