Post by: Eric Jones | Posted Date: September 13th, 2017 | Categories: Debt Collection
Attorneys with the Jones Law Group use this webpage to describe why a public or private service provided should consider contracting out utility collections. We also briefly discuss some of our approach to utility collections services, but we have not offered any insights into how an electricity, gas, or water provider might approach the difficult process of determining which law firm or company can best meet its needs for securing overdue payments on delinquent accounts.
We cannot offer a definitive answer on which debt collector will best meet any organization’s needs or budget, but we will share the following four questions a utility must ask and have answered before hiring a debt collection firm. If you want to learn how the Jones Law Group could help you settle past-due and out-of-service accounts for home or business electricity, gas, or water service, call us at (614) 545-9998 or fill out this online contact form to request a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.
Special state laws and local ordinances dictate when and how utilities and their agents can collect on overdue and out-of-service accounts. These rules are enforced over and above the consumer protections accorded to people who owe on credit cards, vehicles, real estate, and personal loans.
Any violation of utility collections rules can make a debt legally uncollectable. This reality makes experience, ethics, and professionalism principal attributes to seek when contracting with a collection firm. It is also important to ask if the firm has handled instances of utility damage and repairs, service theft, and repeated submission of bad checks. Cases involving alleged vandalism and fraud go beyond mere debt collection, so expertise will be of value to the utility.
Billing for collections can be handled in many ways. An hourly rate could be quoted for trying to collect a large amount owed by a single customer, such as a warehouse or restaurant that fell months behind on its bill. Per-case or percent-per-recovery prices might be quoted to a utility who wants to have a batch of dozens or hundreds of accounts settled. Some contracts may lend themselves to flat fee pricing.
The main consideration is that the fee structure should be clear and mutually agreeable. An ethical debt collection firm will not hide its pricing, add unexpected charges, or do extra work that may increase final costs without getting approval from its client.
Utility collections must be handled legally and respectfully. People who fall behind on their electricity, gas, or water bills often do so unintentionally, meaning that overly aggressive collection approaches can prove counterproductive. Contacts made by letter and over the phone should be professional and worded in ways that communicate empathy and a willingness to work with the person or organization that has accrued the debt.
When setting up a receivership or filing a lawsuit becomes necessary, the firm providing utility collection services must be able to document all efforts to settle the account and provide testimony to a court official or judge.
Utilities often benefit from contracting out all, or nearly all, of the past-due or out-of-service account collection process. Relying on a collections firm to set up and manage repayment accounts can free up utility staff time to serve customers who are in good standing.