Residents challenge extra utility charges

Residents of Collegiate Hall banded together to protest extra utility charges and duplicate bills levied by billing company Easy-Bill. After receiving a petition with 100 signatures, Collegiate Hall Property Management terminated Easy-Bill’s contract. The billing company claims the problem stems from Collegiate Hall’s former management’s failure to inform residents they would be charged for exceeding their utilities allowance.

Woodrow Coleman, a senior who has been living at Collegiate Hall for two and a half years, said problems arose when he was billed by Easy-Bill for exceeding the four-person-apartment allowance for which students pay $160, $24 of which go to Easy-Bill to cover administration costs.

“I didn’t know I was going to be (charged) for going over my allowance,” Coleman said. “I just got a bill from Easy-Bill.”

According to Angie Seals, the current Collegiate Hall property manager, Easy-Bill was entitled to charge residents when they exceeded their electricity and water quota for the month. The problem, Seals said, was that residents were not informed of the charge when signing their lease, a failing she attributes to prior management who initiated the contract with Easy-Bill.

“Issues with Easy-Bill was something that the (current Collegiate Hall management) inherited from previous management,” Seals said. “The previous management (at Collegiate Hall) did not tell (residents) very much about Easy-Bill.”

According to Coleman, the agreement he signed with Collegiate Hall in June made no mention of excess utilities fees or administrative fees.

“It doesn’t say anything about Easy-Bill on the lease,” Coleman said. “(The lease) just mentions the $40 allowance for (some utilities.)”

According to Darryl White, president of Easy-Bill, his company has not taken advantage of its customers, although he admits mistakes have been made in regards to some customers receiving multiple bills.

“(Easy-Bill) has not overcharged any student, and if any student believes they have been overcharged they should contact (Easy-Bill,)” White said. “Mistakes may be made, but (Easy-Bill) does not overcharge students.”

A further problem arose in October when Easy-Bill sent duplicate bills to students who had exceeded their allowance, Seals said.

“One of the problems residents (at Collegiate Hall) were having with Easy-Bill was the fact that (Easy-Bill) was double charging some residents for surpassed cap,” Seals said.

White said the error arose because of a computer problem.

“We regret an error like the (duplicate incident). It didn’t even go to all Collegiate Hall residents. The bills went to only a small group,” White said. “As soon as (Easy-Bill) found out about it we dealt with the issue.”

A few weeks ago, Coleman started a petition to try to persuade property management to dispense with Easy-Bill’s services. After gathering 100 signatures from Collegiate Hall residents, Coleman turned the petition in to Seals.

Seals said although she was aware of some of the problems that had prompted the petition, she believed that a number of residents that signed the petition had not experienced any problems with Easy-Bill.

“Some residents hadn’t received any bills at all from Easy-Bill,” Seals said. “(Yet) some residents (that signed the petition) claimed they were experiencing problems with Easy-Bill.”

As of Oct. 24, Seals said the Collegiate Hall management gave the Easy-Bill company a 60-day noticed informing the company that the complex no longer wanted its services.

Seals said the Collegiate Hall management wants their residents to be happy above all.

On the other side, White said Easy-Bill had received a notice that the letter was coming and said he was disappointed his company was not given an opportunity to fix the situation, which he attributed to the fact that residents were not fully informed of Easy-Bill and its purpose.

Prior to the cancellation, the Atlanta-based utility billing company held a pool party in an attempt to meet Collegiate Hall residents and have an open forum concerning any issues residents there might have had with the company.

“Unfortunately, the former (Collegiate Hall) management did not notify residents until the day of the event, so only a couple of people showed up,” White said.

According to White, one of the few residents that contacted Easy-Bill is Chris Barrett, a junior who has been living at Collegiate Hall for the past two years.

Barrett said the billing problems lie with the concept of having an allowance for utilities.

“I don’t think residents should have to pay if (they) go over (their) quotas because residents don’t get (their) money back if (they) don’t use the whole allowance,” Barrett said.

He added his problem with Easy-Bill had to do with late fees that didn’t apply to his particular case.

“(Easy-Bill) definitely helped me solve my problems,” Barrett said. “I don’t really have any complaints with Easy-Bill. After calling (Easy-Bill) once, they took care of my problems regarding the extra fees.”

With regards to the petition organized by Coleman, White said he was aware of it and said the lack of information concerning Easy-Bill’s services from previous Collegiate Hall management to its residents had a lot to do with the present grievances.

“The bulk of the complaints (Easy-Bill) has heard from (Collegiate Hall) have to do with the how high their bills are,” White said. “There is no mark up in the (bills) but there is an administrative fee that is required in our contract.”