BGE Home pays for its mistake -- at last

After initial offer of $150, customer refunded $906 for surge guard that was never installed

August 27, 2006|by a sun reporter

Kenneth A. Wood ran a business for years, and when a customer had a problem, he made sure that it was corrected. That explains why he was so perplexed - and, for a time, irritated - by his recent interaction with BGE Home Products & Services Inc.

For 12 years, Wood paid BGE monthly for a surge guard to prevent electrical storms from frying everything in his Columbia home. The charge wasn't much - just $6.25. Over time, it added up to $906 and change.

The problem was, BGE billed Wood for the surge guard but never installed it.

Wood isn't even particularly upset about that. "It was a mistake," he says. "Every business makes mistakes."

What upset him, though, was BGE Home's initial offer to make things right by reimbursing him for a fraction of what he paid.

In a letter to Wood, dated July 21, David Ullrich, electronics manager for BGE Home, acknowledges that an inspection "found no surge device present" and that the company had billed Wood for the device since July 1994.

The letter offered "to refund you $150 for the last two years."

Wood, not surprisingly, had a different figure in mind. More like the full amount.

"I think that's appropriate," Wood says. "I'm not trying to be annoying about it - I just think that it's a reasonable expectation."

On Thursday, Ullrich called and offered a full refund. He did not respond to a request for an interview.

Debbie Beck, a spokeswoman for BGE Home, said, "This was an extremely unusual situation. We certainly value our relationships with our customers and we've been working ... to resolve the issue. As such, we've offered a full refund as well as the option to have us come out and install a surge device with all installation fees waived."

Wood accepted the refund but declined to have the surge guard installed.

Wood had decided to sign up for the service after the area was hit by several severe thunderstorms. He wanted protection for his television, computer and other electrical appliances that could be ruined by a power surge.

At $6.25 a month, Wood considered the protection a good investment.

He enjoyed the peace of mind until late May, when he turned on the air conditioner and discovered that the fan wasn't functioning.

Wood says he called BGE, and he was asked was whether he had checked the circuit breakers and surge guard to see if they had clicked off.

"I don't even know what it looks like," he says. "I need somebody to see show me I've got it."

BGE Home dispatched a technician July 18, who discovered the surge guard had never been installed.

In his letter, Ullrich wrote "even though there was no presence of a surge device, BGE Home would have honored a legitimate surge claim upon our investigation."

But Wood said that missed the point. "We didn't get what we paid for," he says. "To me, it's the principle."

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