This is the second of three consecutive posts reporting the results of the Utility Fee Survey. 88 utilities, from 15 states, ranging in size from 200 to 168,500 active accounts participated in the survey.

Last week’s issue summarized the demographics of the survey respondents as well as water and sewer tap and impact fees. Today’s issue deals with delinquent fees and policies. Next week the third and final survey results issue will recap all remaining fees.

Late fees

Of the 88 participating utilities, 87 charge a late fee. As shown by this pie chart, charging a late fee as a percentage of the bill is the most popular method:

Utilities that assess the late fee as a percentage charge from 1% to 15%, with 10% being the most popular, as this graph demonstrates:

Late fees range from $5.00 to $85.00 for utilities that charge a flat amount. (The utility that charges $85.00 does so in lieu of charging a reconnect fee.) This graph illustrates the late fee flat amounts:

Cut-off fees

Four of the 88 utilities do not cut off for non-payment. All of the 84 that do cut off for non-payment charge a flat amount cut-off or reconnect fee, ranging from $20.00 to $100.00 as shown below:

Of the 84 utilities that cut off for non-payment, 52 of them (representing 61.9% of the responding utilities) assess the cut-off fee as soon as the cut-off list leaves the office. I wrote about this in Utility Information Pipeline #32.

Cut-off fee terminology

As more utilities adopt this best practice, many of them are finding that terms such as “cut-off fee”, “disconnect fee” or “reconnect fee” are becoming outdated. For that reason, the survey asked what each utility calls its cut-off fee. The results are displayed in the following chart:

For the number of responses, including the ten terms included in the “other” category refer to the following table:

As you can see, reconnect fee and cut-off fee are still the most popular terms, but many utilities have adopted terms that do not refer to cut-off or re-connection. Calling your cut-off fee “delinquent fee” or “non-payment fee” or any of the other terms that do not imply cut-off or re-connection helps to avoid the inevitable arguments with customers who must pay the fee but have not been cut off.

After hours reconnect fees

Of the 84 utilities that cut off for non-payment, 35 of them (representing 41.7%) will reconnect after hours and charge a fee for this service.  26 of the 35 utilities (or 74.3%) will reconnect any time after regular office hours. The remaining nine utilities will only reconnect during selected time periods as shown below:

After hours reconnect fee amounts range from $20.00 to $185.00 as show by the following graph:

Next week’s issue

Part III –June 12, 2012

Next week’s final survey results issue deals with any remaining fees, including application, returned check, meter reread, meter tampering and convenience fees.