How do I know if I’m eligible to participate?
BGE’s Prepaid Power pilot program is by invitation only. If you did not receive an invitation we cannot enroll you in the program at this time. (There are limited spaces available for new customers starting service with BGE.) If you did receive an invitation call 1-833-2PREPAY (277-3729) weekdays between 7 am and 7pm.
Are there other qualifications?
Invited BGE residential customers with smart meters are eligible if their balance is $600 or less, and no one in their household has a serious medical condition. Also, we cannot enroll gas-only customers, landlords for accounts other than where they live, or customers with “net energy metering,” such as home solar panels or a subscription to a community solar program. Also, if you are enrolled in BGE’s Budget Billing program you would need to end that before enrolling in the Prepaid pilot. And if you have additional charges on your BGE bill, such as for a home service contract (but not including from a retail energy supplier), you would have to contact them to bill you separately if you want to enroll in the Prepaid Power program.
What happens if my conditions change after I enroll in the pilot?
We ask that you notify BGE if anything happens that puts you in violation of those eligibility criteria. Some conditions could be resolved, such as if you cannot receive program alerts through your desired communication methods. But other conditions might require you to switch back to postpay service, such as if someone in your household develops a serious medical condition.
Why might I like Prepaid service?
Customers at other utilities that have chosen Prepaid service often report that they like being able to track daily usage on their smartphone, tablet or computer, and through regular notifications from the company. They report being better able to manage and even reduce their usage, and pay off existing debts over time. You can choose how often you pay, with no unexpected bill amount to pay at the end of the month. There are no new deposits, late fees or reconnect fees. However, prepaid service is not for everyone. You should read this entire document to decide if it may be right for you.
What additional steps are there once I decide to participate in the pilot program?
Over the phone (833-277-3729) we will ask some additional questions about your household. Then, to start prepaid service you must make a payment of at least $40 toward your Prepaid account balance. You must read and agree to the Terms & Conditions (you can look at them now at bge.com/Prepaid). And you must respond to a test notification we’ll send you by email – and text or phone, as well. We ask that you do these things within five days, or we may have to start the enrollment process over again.
How long is the pilot program?
This pilot program is scheduled to last up to 12 months, with the opportunity to continue participation if the pilot proves to be successful. However, you can always leave the program at any time.
When will BGE notify me of how much to pay?
BGE will send you notices with your current prepaid account balance and an estimate of the days of service remaining, when you have an estimated five days, three days and one day remaining (you can choose to add more notifications if you like). You will always get notices in time to make a payment before your account balance reaches zero. We will send you another notice at that time, known as a “zero balance notice,” and you can avoid a disconnection by making a payment before 10:00 a.m. the next business day. And, you can always find your account balance and days remaining online, or by calling BGE at 833.2PREPAY (277-3729).
Will I still receive a monthly bill?
Not exactly. BGE will still prepare a monthly summary of your Prepaid activity (you can view it online at BGE.com/myAccount). But unlike the monthly bill you’re used to, it will not include an amount that is due or a due date. In most other respects it will look very similar.
How will I receive the notices?
At a minimum we will send you email messages (you must provide a working email address to participate in the pilot). You must also provide at least one additional notification method: either a text number or other phone number to receive automated calls, or both. If you choose phone calls you must agree to receive calls from BGE. It is your obligation to make sure BGE can reach you by the methods you choose, and to let us know if any of those methods are no longer workable.
Can I designate someone else to receive copies of notices?
Yes. Just provide BGE with their contact method (email, text or phone number) and we will send them a copy of any zero balance notice you receive, or any other notices you choose.
Can I postpone a disconnection if I need more time to pay?
First, we will never disconnect service outside of business hours, including during weekends or holidays, or any day when temperatures are forecasted to remain below 32 degrees or above 95 degrees on at least one of the next three days. Second, if you are at risk of disconnection and need extra time to make a payment, call BGE (at 833.277.3729) and we will give you five extra (calendar) days to make a payment. You can even ask for a five-day extension after you are disconnected, and we will first restore your service. However, after the fifth day, you must pay any amount you owe at that time to avoid a disconnection.
If I get disconnected, how do I get my service restored?
To restore service you will be asked to bring your prepaid account balance to at least $15 – that’s in addition to any amount you may already owe at that point (such as if you reached a zero balance before a weekend, but were not disconnected until Monday). You do NOT have to pay back any amount in your Deferred Balance to get restored. As noted, if you just want to get reconnected and need a little extra time to make a payment, you may call BGE and ask to be restored and given a five-day extension. Again, after the fifth day, you must pay any amount you owe at that time to avoid a disconnection. If you reconnect service with a check that is later returned for insufficient funds, you could be subject to disconnection again immediately. At that point you will not be permitted to pay by check again for 12 months.
When will my account close if I remain off service?
If your service remains off for more than 20 business days your account will close, and you must call BGE to restart service. You may have to pay the $20 service application fee at that time. (Note: if you have a retail supplier, you would have to contact them to restart your service with them.) If you are off service for more than 30 days and want to restart a BGE account in postpay service, you would have to first pay any outstanding amount you owe.
Can I get restored by switching back to “postpay” service?
Yes. Just call BGE during business hours and we will restore your service and switch you back to postpay. Any credit you have will be applied to your first postpay bill, and any amount you owe at that time will be charged on your first bill; if you owe anything you can pay it entirely, or ask BGE if you may be eligible for a payment arrangement. However, you may not be allowed to return to prepaid service during the one-year pilot unless the pilot enrollment is still open, and you have paid any outstanding amount you owe.
How much do I have to pay?
There is no minimum payment amount (except for the first minimum $40 payment to enroll). Then, generally you will pay the same price under the Prepaid Power program as you would normally for BGE’s (or your retail supplier’s) service. However, rather than waiting for a monthly bill and having to pay the entire amount at once, you will make payments before you use the service. Therefore you can pay as little or as much as you like, anytime you like, as long as you make sure to keep some money in your Prepaid account. (Bear in mind that some of BGE’s payment methods carry a $1.50 fee; we will reimburse you for the first payment fee you incur each month from an authorized BGE payment vendor.)
How can I make payments?
You can make payments through any of the methods BGE offers today, including online at bge.com, by calling BGE’s phone line (833.277.3729), by visiting a retail payment location or by mail. BGE’s payment methods can be found here. You can also sign up for the Auto Reload service described below.
How quickly will my payments be credited to my account?
Payments are posted within the hour if they are made before 6:00 p.m. through your account at bge.com, at authorized BGE walk-in pay locations, or using the BGE phone line. Typically, if BGE receives payments after 6:00 p.m., we cannot credit them and restore service until the next morning. (Payments dropped off at BGE’s headquarters must be made by 12:00 pm and will be credited by 3:30 p.m.) Other payments, including mailed checks, take BGE longer to process. Read the Payment Methods document for more details about fees and payment processing times to avoid a disconnection or have service restored quickly.
What if I owe something on my existing BGE account when I enroll in this pilot?
Any amount you currently owe – including service you’ve used so far this month but have not yet been billed for – will be moved to your new Prepaid account as a “Deferred Balance.” You will not have to pay that Deferred Balance immediately. Instead, after your initial payment any subsequent payments will be applied 75 percent toward future usage and 25 percent to your Deferred Balance, until the amount is paid in full. You can always pay more than 25 percent toward your Deferred Balance by notifying BGE after you make an extra payment.
Can I keep my BGEasy or Autopay service?
No. Payments under these services are triggered by your monthly bill due date, but under Prepaid service you will not have a monthly bill due date. However, you may choose the Auto Reload feature, which will automatically make payments for you in the amount you choose (but a minimum of $10) any time your Prepaid account falls to within two days of service remaining. Ask a Customer Service Representative about Auto Reload.
Do I have to pay a security deposit to participate?
No. And if you already have a deposit on account with BGE, you’ll be eligible for a refund under BGE’s existing deposit rules (typically 12 months after you make the deposit). See BGE’sConsumer Reference Guide, page 2, for details. If you are a new customer you will not be required to pay a deposit as long as you choose to remain in prepaid service. However, if you leave the pilot program before 12 months to switch to traditional “postpay” service, you could be assessed a deposit, which would be added to your first bill in postpay service.
Can I receive assistance grants in the Prepaid Power program?
Yes. BGE will apply your grants from the State of Maryland or local government the same way as in postpay:
Can I still receive an OHEP 55-day extension under prepaid service?
How will BGE calculate my usage and account balance?
Every day your gas and/or electric meter will send that day’s usage data to BGE. We will keep track of how much money is in your Prepaid account, and reduce that amount by the cost of the gas and electricity you used that day, including a daily pro-rated share of certain monthly charges such as customer charges, and taxes and some other fees. The following morning you can check online – or wait for one of our notifications (see below) – to see how much you have left, and an estimate of the days of service that remain before your service runs out and you would be disconnected.
What if my meter fails to send the usage information?
Sometimes missed transmissions can happen. If we miss a day or more of usage data, we will continue to reduce your prepaid account balance by the cost of monthly charges that are applied each day, but not by the cost of the gas and electricity usage, until we start receiving the meter reads again. We won’t disconnect your service during this period. When we start getting the data again, we’ll adjust your account balance accordingly. If we can’t get the meter data we will schedule an appointment to investigate and fix the problem, so you must give us access to the meter(s). If we can’t access the meter or fix the problem quickly we may have to switch you back to postpay service after 14 days.
Could my charges at the end of the month be different than what I prepaid during the month?
Yes. Because Prepaid Power customers pay for service before using it, and because some utility charges are not actually calculated until the end of the month (or the end of your particular billing cycle), there could be some differences between what you paid and the total charges we calculate at the end of your billing cycle. Typically, these differences would be very small, and might be due to rounding of dollar amounts, or an unexpected credit you may receive. BGE will compare these actual monthly charges with what you paid in advance into your Prepaid account. We call this the true-up process.
If there is a such a difference, what will BGE do to reconcile it?
Some months you may prepay a little more than what the actual charges turn out to be; if so, when we calculate your charges that month we will credit that amount to your Prepaid account immediately. If you prepaid less than the actual charges, we will distribute that debit over each of the next 30 days (unless it is $1.00 or less, in which case we will apply the charge right away). In most cases you should not notice the impact of this debit. This information will be available for you to see online.
What if I have a retail supplier for electricity or gas?
For this Prepaid pilot, we will calculate your daily charges each day using the same rates that BGE charges for gas and electric commodity. At the end of your billing month, we will compare what you paid with the actual charges we receive from your supplier. If it turns out your supplier’s price was more or less than BGE’s we will do the same reconciliation process described above, and we will apply the difference the same way: a credit will be applied immediately, and a debit (of $1.00 or more) will be spread over the next 30 days. Again, details will be available for you to see online any time.
Are there any special risks of choosing Prepaid service?
Yes: If you allow your account balance to fall to zero and do not make a payment to replenish your account, you could be disconnected as soon as the next business day. Though you can request a five-day extension of service, there are no other service extensions available under this program. Loss of power could mean the food in your refrigerator or freezer could spoil, and medications could be ruined. Though we won’t disconnect service during extremely hot or cold weather, if you remain off service and the weather becomes extreme, there are health risks related to a lack of home energy. That is why you may not enroll or remain in Prepaid Power if anyone in your household has a serious medical condition or life-supporting medical equipment. Finally, typical housing rental agreements require that your power remain on, so if you let your power off, even for brief periods, you could put yourself at risk of breach of contract or even eviction. Please let BGE know if any of these conditions occurs, and please reconsider enrolling in Prepaid Power if any of these risks may affect you.
Are there other consumer regulations that do not apply if I participate in the pilot?
Yes. Because many of the state’s utility regulations were written to address utility service that is paid for after a customer uses the service, some of them do not apply in a Prepaid service. The state’s regulator, the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC), has ruled that for this pilot the following state regulations do not apply for customers in the program, and by choosing to participate you should understand you are waiving your right to these protections. You may always switch back to postpay if you decide you want any of these protections:
Are there other obligations for this pilot?
Because we are launching this program to learn more about Prepaid service and what our customers prefer, we will ask you to provide some household information when you enroll, and participate in surveys or focus groups during or after the pilot program to help us learn from you to fine-tune future participants’ experiences. All personal information will remain confidential, and we will make the pilot results available for anyone to read.