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High Electric Bills Hurt Consumer’s Credit Score

By Sally Maison
Published: Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

Having high electric bills could hurt a credit score, and no one knows that better than former US marine Bill Boyington.

High Electric Bills Hurt Consumer’s Credit ScoreAfter being honorably discharged from service, Boyington decided to move with his young family from Texas to Connecticut when he landed a job at the state. He says he has been working real hard on improving his credit score since he hopes to someday buy a house for his wife and kids, which includes a baby. That is why he did not know what to do next when United Illuminating Co., an electric utility based in New Haven, sent him a bill that ruined his credit rating.

Boyington’s family was charged with $600 on their electric bill last winter. It came as a shock to them, not knowing that Connecticut has one of the highest electricity costs in the United States. The bill reached that high because their apartment uses electric heating. His wife contacted UI and requested for a payment plan. The electric company arranged a payment term for them. Consumer groups say it was the right thing to do since it allows the company to get full payment without making their clients choose between light and food. But an unexpected problem popped up.

Despite agreeing to new payment terms, UI reported Boyington’s account as delinquent to the credit bureaus after not being able to pay his bill for one whole month. The former serviceman had no idea that his credit score took a huge hit until he applied for a line of credit with a bank. He found out that negative marks across his name dragged his rating down from good, to poor.

Boyington said he did everything to keep his excellent credit rating and was greatly disappointed when it was ruined by a single company. He thought his account was current his he was paying as agreed on the new payment terms from a little extra each month.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is helping Boyington and other consumers with similar problems and is now asking UI to give its side.

UI representatives say they could not discuss individual cases but they did explain their company policies. They said new terms are made merely to prevent disconnection, adding that late payments are automatically reported by their computer to the bureaus as they are programmed to do. But they tell clients that their company is not infallible and can make mistakes at times. They advise consumers to contact them so they can correct errors.

Meanwhile, Boyington will continue to talk with the company and to discuss the damage made on his credit score.

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