NEWSBRIEF: Cold weather rule took effect Oct. 15

The Minnesota Cold Weather rule took effect Oct. 15, and Xcel Energy wants to ensure that residential customers who need assistance paying their energy bills this winter can get the help they need.

Under the rule, income-eligible customers are protected from service disconnection from Oct. 15 through the following April 15, if the disconnection would affect the customer’s primary heating source.

“We understand that customers can sometimes face challenges paying their electric and natural gas bills and we want to provide the resources they need to make payment arrangements,” said Pat Boland, Manager, Customer Policy and Assistance. “We have several programs and work with many agencies that can provide assistance or identify other resources for customers in need.”

Eligible customers must commit to a monthly payment not to exceed 10 percent of household income, and they must immediately contact the utility and set up a payment plan if they receive a disconnection notice.

Xcel Energy will also provide contact information for local community energy assistance programs.

Customers were recently sent information about the cold weather rule with their energy bills. For more information, customers can call Xcel Energy’s residential customer service line at 1-800-895-4999 Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Additionally, customers can visit www.xcelenergy.com for more information about the cold weather rule and energy assistance options.

 

Be aware of scams

Xcel Energy also wants to remind customers to be aware of scams that typically ramp up during the change in seasons.

In most scenarios, the scammer tells the customer their account is past due and service will be disconnected if a large payment isn’t made — usually within the hour. The scammer then instructs the customer to purchase a pre-paid debit or credit card — widely available at retail stores — and demands the customer call back to supposedly make a payment to the utility. These scammers often sound professional and may also manipulate caller ID so numbers look like they’re coming from Xcel Energy.

 Even when a caller sounds legitimate, here are some quick warning signs for customers:

• Customers should be very suspicious if a caller requires a single form of payment, such as requiring the use of a prepaid debit card. Xcel Energy offers many options for payment and will never ask or require a customer with a past due account to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid disconnection.

• Xcel Energy customers will initially be contacted by U.S. mail about past due bills, not over the phone. You will also be sent a disconnection notice in writing before your power is actually turned off.

• Customers should never wire money, provide bank card numbers, and social security numbers to an unverified source.

 

Customers with any doubt about the authenticity of someone claiming to be from Xcel Energy and asking for payment should hang up immediately. They should then call Xcel Energy Customer Service at 1-800-895-4999 Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. or Saturday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to report the experience. By calling these numbers, customers can count on the help of a legitimate representative. Information provided will be shared with investigators to aid in possible criminal investigation. Affected customers should also contact local authorities to file a criminal complaint.

Xcel Energy’s website, www.xcelenergy.com, has much more information to help people avoid phone, email, in person and employment scams.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet
Comment Here