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Wrinkles: Going bankrupt for bills

  • Saturday, March 23, 2013

I was deep in thought as I worked on household bills when the phone rang. Answering, I heard this soft voice say, "I'm going bankrupt."
Waiting for further conversation, she finally continued: "After paying for utilities, heat, rent and other basics, I am unable to buy food anymore."
Questioning the lady, she revealed she was on a fixed income, with no hope for money from any other source. I relayed to her all the agencies that I knew who would help her and asked that she continue to keep in touch with me.
Turning back to my chore of bill paying, I noticed that my statement from South Carolina Electric and Gas was the highest ever. Checking over previous bills, I discovered that the statement for December was $170.84, jumping to $226.4 in January, then to $314.59 in February and to $395.36 in March.
There was a problem in January when I paid B&E Heating for a new part and installation and had to use emergency heat for three days and expected an increase for that month. But, every month to increase from $170.84 in December to $395.36 in March was ridiculous!
I called SCE&G to see if the Public Service Commission had given them permission to increase bills to that extent, as this commission does seem to vote for increases when asked.
Expressing my problem to the lady in customer service, after much discussion with her trying to explain away the increase, she then said, "Go out to the meter box and read it to me." I laughed and said I don't even know where the meter box is (thinking she was kidding). She said, "It's on the left side of your house so go out and tell me the numbers."I asked her to send someone out to read it to her and she replied that they did not do that.
The account is listed under Marion's name, and when she found out that it was not under my name, she said that he would have to call and talk about the account. That hit a sore spot with me, and I told her in a loud voice that my husband had died last month. She said I would have to come in and change it. By that time I was so upset, I hung up.
It's strange that for the past 18 years, the check that paid this bill had been signed by Mary Cashon Jones and they cashed it for 19 years without any problem!
The next day, the phone rang, and by the time I walked from one room to another, the person had disconnected. Checking the phone ID, and seeing it was from SCE&G, I dialed back the number and was told by a recording that this number does not accept incoming calls. As of Friday late, I have not heard anything else.
Did the Public Service Commission actually let SCE&G raise the rates to this amount?
I would like for everyone to go to this website www.psc.sc.gov/commissioners/ and read about the public service commissioners. They are elected by the General Assembly, but who submits the names to them? There are seven, but S.C. House member Bill Hixon says that the person from our area is David Wright from Columbia. In 2010, the S.C. Public Service Commissioners were each paid an estimated $160,272, according to the Council of State Governments. I am sure that's a lot more than the lady who called me with her "fixed income."
My big question is: Is the Public Service Commission supposed to help the people or the industry?
For complaints, call the S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff at 803-737-5230 or 1-800-922-1531. Seniors on a fixed income should not have to beg for help after working hard all of their lives. They need an "angel" in public office who will reach out and stand up for the "greatest generation." Is there one out there?"When you forget yourself, you usually start doing something others will remember."


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