HANAHAN, SC – Keith and Emily Ovadenko just moved into their new home in Hanahan, and had a rough introduction to their new water provider, Charleston Water System.
The Ovadenkos say they paid their first bill, which was due July 2nd, at the end of June using their checking account information, and even got a confirmation number. But that payment was rejected and the utility slapped them with a $35 “returned check” fee.
“I don’t even know what I did wrong because nothing ever popped up saying that you entered the wrong information, just the confirmation,” said Emily. “And the only reason I wasn’t hit with a late fee on top of it is I happened to check the bank account the day the bill was due and noticed the money never left my account.”
Emily says she tried to get answers from customer service over the phone but could not get an explanation for what caused the checking account info to be rejected.
Keith then went looking for answers at the CWS satellite office in North Charleston, but wound up being escorted from the building by security when he also couldn’t get answers. Eventually, Keith connected with the assistant director of customer service Chris Hendricks, who immediately refunded the $35.
“He said, you know we’ll work with you, and credit your account like you asked, and I said, that is great but why a $35 fee, and why did it take an act of calling the [assistant director of customer service] to get it fixed,” said Keith.
That is when the Ovadenkos turned to the I-Team. We spoke with Hendricks who said that fee is to cover the fee charged to CWS by its bank when that checking account information resulted in a failed transaction.
“But we still have policies, and procedures in place to refund those fees, and that should have happened right away,” said Hendricks.
Hendricks admits, right now, the system is not perfect, and they will be working on ways to make sure that customers have some help in verifying the information they put into the bill pay system is correct.
With debit and credit cards, there is an immediate response if you mistype a number. That does not happen with checking accounts, but Hendricks said this situation will definitely be part of their discussions on improving the customer service experience.
“Until we come up with the final answer, take your time typing in the information, make sure it’s in the right box, and in the background Charleston Water will be working on ways we can tighten up the process.” said Hendricks.
There is no timeline for when customers can expect changes, but some of the possibilities are making customers add the checking account information twice, with any discrepancy resulting in an error. They could also add language to the site reminding you to check account and routing numbers closely.
Do you have something for the I-Team to investigate? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 843.216.4949