A natural gas marketer’s computer glitch caused 443 customer accounts in Tallmadge not to get enrolled in the city’s aggregation program.
Those customers will receive letters and will get enrolled, Mayor David Kline said Thursday afternoon.
Kline said the company, Direct Energy, has assured him customers will be made whole financially for their losses.
Residents began calling city hall about two weeks ago, the mayor said, to say their gas bills were not reflecting the right supplier or correct price — $4.19 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) fixed rate through October or $4.09/mcf for senior citizens.
Customers were getting a variety of answers from Direct Energy for the reason, and Kline and the city’s energy broker arranged a conference call with Direct Energy on Thursday to straighten things out, he said.
About 2,500 of the city’s 5,500 households and 750 businesses are enrolled in the city’s aggregation program and are not affected, Kline said.
The 443 affected customers were accounts that were not properly enrolled with Direct Energy, the mayor said. They had opted into the program in October or November for the Nov. 1 start date and should have been processed by December.
Instead, those customers noticed that their bills were not reflecting the switch. In some cases, rates with existing providers went up.
Kline said Direct Energy officials told him in the conference call that the 443 requests went into a computer queue that was supposed to forward information automatically to Dominion East Ohio for the switch.
“They’re willing to send out these letters and own up to the problem, and let’s see how it works,” Kline said. “That issue is still out. I want to make sure it happens.”
Direct Energy spokeswoman Bethany Ruhe said the problem is being corrected.
“Direct Energy’s system is designed to prevent enrollment until a welcome packet with terms and conditions has been mailed to customers. This ensures customers receive their necessary information prior to enrollment,” she said. “Unfortunately, a glitch in the enrollment system prevented the welcome packets from generating for some customers, which also prevented the enrollment.”
Kline said he has inquired whether the city’s aggregation deal could be extended through 2014. The current terms are among the lowest for a community aggregation and remain available to Tallmadge residents and small businesses by calling 866-760-6040.
This is not the first time Direct Energy has had problems with an aggregation.
Last January, the company said a coding error was to blame for accidentally sending out 17,000 letters about the Summit County aggregation to the wrong customers. It then had problems with an overflowing post office box for opt-out forms for that program.