Another Conundrum! Late Fee’s Upon Late Bills! Where Does It End?

It Just Makes You Wonder Who’s Runnin’ The Show!

Here’s another conundrum I’ve been mulling over in my head.  We are doing things backwards, but everyone ignores the fact that it is backwards.   We continue on our course with no course correction in site.  We can see down the river that the falls are up ahead, but we just keep on paddling!

This is why I studied psychology in college, but I never found the answers?  It appears no one else knows either.  What am I referring to?  Late fee’s, penalty fee’s, re-connection fee’s when we’ve been disconnected, penalties imposed when we are late paying a bill.

What’s the big deal you may ask.  If you’re late paying your bill, a late fee is imposed to punish you.  To make you remorseful and not do it again.  Really?  Is that all it is?  So simple.  Just pay the bill and the late fee and be done with it, right?  WRONG!

I am not a Saint, I have been late on a bill and coughed up the late fee.  But I am one of the lucky one’s.  For me it was just a matter of sending the money.  What about all of the people that don’t have the money to send?

It’s an avalanche that bury’s the person that doesn’t have the money to pay.  I just experienced the Water Department’s method of operation recently.  Who do you go to when you have a complaint or disagree with the Water Department?  The Water Department is who. Now does that make sense? You could file for a public hearing if you have a grievance, but you better pay up now while you wait for your day in court!  The Water Department dictates and you better listen!

In my situation I bought a house.  The previous owner passed away.  The day I told my real estate agent I was interested in the home, my name was put on title according to the Water Department.  Escrow didn’t close until 30 days after they said my name was put on title for the home.  So, the day my name was put on title as owning the home at that moment I was responsible for the water bill (I hadn’t even applied for a loan at that time!) .   So my water bill started ticking that day.

We move in and about 3 weeks later, I get an enormous water bill $235!  I call the Water Department and left a message.  They called back and left a message telling me, “Yes, that is what you owe because the previous owner (the one that died) left an outstanding bill which rolled over to you because you took ownership on this date.”  That didn’t even make sense.  I called back. All in all I was told in no uncertain terms that the outrageous amount due was absolutely my responsibility and if not paid by the next week a late fee of $35 would be applied.  If still not paid my service would be shut off and a $85 fee to turn it back on will be imposed.  But it won’t be turned back on until I pay the outrageous $235 plus the $35 late fee.  I paid the bill the next day.

The point is, what if I couldn’t pay it?  It was a bill totally unplanned for.  I expected my usual $90 water bill.  Many, many, many people would not be able to pay an unexpected large bill like that.

Since they couldn’t pay it in the short time allowed, they would have that $35 late fee attached to it!  Thanks, that’s great, kick a guy when he’s down!!  If the bill was too much for their budget in the first place, how is tacking on a late fee going to fix the problem??  Then, if still not paid, the service is turned off!  For crying out loud, this is the water service!  They don’t charge a fee to shut it off thank goodness, I guess.  But they do charge the person that couldn’t afford the bill in the first place, a huge fee to turn it back on, only after they pay the late fee as well!!  I feel like I’m running backwards.

Am I the only one that see’s something here is horribly backwards?  Why is a late fee imposed on someone that can not afford the bill in the first place?  To encourage payment, yeah.  There are slackers out there.  I agree with that.  But more often than not, the bill isn’t paid because the household does’t have the funds available!  Public utilities needs a program besides LEAP (something with some clout, sorry LEAP) that steps in to stop automatic shut off of a utility that is needed like the water, PG&E and sewer.  The LEAP program is a one time assistance that is able to squeeze you into the schedule AFTER your power is shut off!

The public utilities aren’t the only one’s running backwards, all agencies that bill citizens for one thing or another should have a back up plan in place that does NOT include punishing the poor with a higher bill than the rich citizens.  Citizens with the good fortune to have employment and money to pay for necessities incur the same bill as the next guy.  Let’s say the bill is $80.  The poor or struggling citizen incurs this same bill, then comes up short for a month and the same $80 bill becomes a $200 bill with late fee’s and reconnection fee’s for the struggling citizen!  How does that make sense?

The current system punish’s someone for not having enough money to pay their bill by adding fee, after fee, upon penalty’s and re-connection fee’s??  The people that are struggling the very most to make ends meet are the one’s that suffer from our retarded systems in place.

Here it is in a simple example:

Work paid:   Credit of $100 (Yeah, pay day 🙁  )

Food took :   minus $40

Gas to get to work took another:   minus $30

Rent! Important! Minus   $75

Misc. bill (water, pge, whatever):  Money is gone Big $0.00

This person is already in the negative when rent was paid.  Now that their account is depleted, that misc. bill of water of pge or what have you tacks on a late fee and penalty fee and fee after fee after fee!  The most vulnerable and needy are punished for working hard but not earning enough to keep basic necessities like water and lights on.

This is backwards, backwards, backwards!  Late fee’s need to be illegal.  Assistant financial counseling needs to be implemented to help guide people to a higher income or better budgeting.  Big industry, needs to produce some big solutions!

Services such as water, sewer and PG&E (which DOES have multiple programs available to help pay their electric and gas bill, thank you PG&E) should consider implementing a program that donates maybe .10 cents from every single paid bill they take in and distribute that among the proven low income citizens.  When their computers identify a household in jeopardy of having their water (gas whichever) shut off, instead of slapping them with a late fee!!! Identify who they are and their income status (don’t tell me they don’t have access to that kind of information because they do) and apply the noted donations to that account immediately to stop the shut off of their services.

That’s all it would take, probably even less than .10 cents.  Just 1000 customers would produce:

1,000 customers x .10 = $100 !!

Right there is one household saved!  The town I reside in has a population of 32,000  that would create a reserve of $3,200!!  That would cover my towns needy citizens.  But, of course, they would have to have another department to monitor the donation department from embezzling!

Fee’s to turn a service back on after it was shut off need to be abolished!  They have employee’s working 9 to 5.  They are paid by the hour regardless of what they are doing, like shutting off water.  It’s no skin off of their back to turn it back on, so stop charging customers for something that they turned off in the first place!

We need to make changes.  More people are becoming homeless everyday from all these little fee’s adding up and breaking the camel’s back.  Stop throwing more on the camel when he’s already down on his knee’s!

Would you like to know what gets me so fired up about this subject when it isn’t my personal problem?  I’ll tell you why and I’ll go a step further and prove my reason why.  I get fired up about this subject and similar abuse of lower income people because it is the children that suffer the most.  Not the adults.  Not the older folks.  The children suffer the most.  That is why I get so fired up about it.

Read this census from the U.S. Census office if you dare.  Look at how many children between 0 and 9 years old suffer compared to all the others.  That is unacceptable.  There’s no way around that fact.

Shame on late fee’s!  Shame on companies that impose and enforce any fee or penalty!  When a penalty is imposed on someone that doesn’t have the money for the bill in the first place, something has to give.  Necessities of life are taken from these people in one of the richest countries in the world!

What is affected?  Food? Yes.  Medical attention?  Way too often. Electric services?  Absolutely.  Water?  Yes, water is one of the worst offenders!  Most often services and food that affect the children.  Stop punishing children.  Come up with a solution.  Stop the backwards madness!

 

 

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