NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Some customers who have service with Dallas-based Atmos Energy got a big surprise when their bank accounts were charged the amount due — tenfold!
According to Company spokeswoman Jennifer Ryan the error happened on Sunday night. “Currently Atmos Energy is investigating the cause of a payment issue that affected approximately 27,000 customers, in north and central Texas.”
The incident has left more than a few customers, who have their credit or debit card accounts set up to make monthly payments, upset. “The isolated event appears to have only charged customers who paid their bill through an automatic draft, but it did charge then 10 times the actual amount of their current gas bill,” Ryan explained.
Angie Gibbons of Richardson noticed the problem Sunday, when her bank sent her a text message warning of an unusual withdrawal for $479.50 from the gas company. Her bill showed she owed $47.95. “We knew it had to be an error. We were just frustrated. That’s a big jump in amount,” she said.
Atmos Energy provides gas service in nearly half a dozen states, and Ryan said, “The bulk of the customers affected were in what we call the Mid-Tex area, that’s north and central Texas. However we did have some small amounts in west Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Colorado, and Mississippi — all the states that we do serve.” When the number of affected Texas customers are combined with the debit errors in other states, some 39,000 Atmos customers across the country were overcharged.
Many of those customers were venting on the company’s Facebook page Monday. One woman posted a screen shot of her phone, after spending more than 2 hours on hold with Atmos, trying to get answers.
“They’re kind of behind the 8 ball,” said Alan Driggers, a teacher in Gainsville, who had $347.40 withdrawn from his checking account. “I noticed it last night. And it took until 2:30 today before they issued any kind of contact to their customers.”
Driggers says, he was able to divert money into his checking account to cover the auto insurance bill due this week. Customers on tighter budgets, however, complained they wouldn’t have money for rent or groceries until they received their refund.
As it stands, officials with Atmos are contacting affected customers by phone and through email to help them with account reimbursements. “We are reaching out to them individually, on a case-by-case basis, and working out those financial issues with them to reimburse them for any fees they may have incurred.”
The billing error apparently had to do with the decimal point in the amount due. Of the three million customers that Atoms serves Ryan said, “It’s a rather isolated and small amount of people, but we are going to find out exactly what caused it. We know that the damage has been done and that we are just reversing all those payments and reimbursing them as soon as possible.”
Apparently that “as soon as possible” will be a day or so. Asking customers for patience, officials with Atmos say customers can expect to have their accounts refunded in 24 to 72 hours.
Any customer who has additional questions can contact Atmos at (888) 286-6700.
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