NSTAR stops sending people paper bills, without their permission

By | August 20, 2006

I got this email from NSTAR on August 14:

Dear E-Bill Customer,

Thank you for using E-Bill to pay your NSTAR bill online. And now, we’re making things even easier.

In an effort to reduce paper clutter in your mailbox, E-Bill is going paperless. This means, as of today, we will stop sending paper statements to you in the mail but we’ll continue to send you an email reminder when your NSTAR bill(s) is ready to pay at our web site.

And, you can still print your monthly statements from your computer for your records as well as view and print past statements.

We hope this new, convenient E-Bill feature helps you save money and time in your busy life.

Sincerely,

Tony Simas
Director, Billing Services

I just sent this response:

To whom it may concern:

I recently signed up for the “E-Bill” service on your Web site so that I could pay my electricity bill online.  When doing so, I explicitly and intentionally did *not* opt to stop receiving paper bills.  I fully wanted and intended to keep receiving paper bills.

On August 14, you sent me email informing me that, without my consent, you were going to stop sending me paper bills.  Your email message was bounced back to you by my spam filter, so you sent me a followup letter via U.S. Mail.  At least you got that part right.

It is, quite simply, NOT ACCEPTABLE for you to stop sending people paper bills without their consent.  Please do whatever you need to do to ensure that I WILL CONTINUE TO RECEIVE PAPER BILLS.

I can find nothing on your Web site to allow me to turn paper bills back on.  If there’s a way to do it, you’ve done a great job of hiding it.  I did, however, find some text in your “E-Bill FAQ” section which explicitly contradicts the email and letter you recently sent me:

Can I use E-Bill simply to view my bill and not be required to pay online? What if I want to keep getting my paper bills?

Yes.  E-Bill has replaced the former “Account Access” area of our website.  When you register with E-Bill, you can conveniently view your bill online, however, you are not required to choose a payment or paperless option.

You need to edit your Web site so that it doesn’t lie to customers.  However, even better would be for you to go back to how things were before and keep mailing customers paper bills unless they’ve explicitly told you that they no longer wish to receive them.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to see you mess up like this… I’ve already stopped using your automatic debit service because of an incident where you billed me twice for the same month and then refused to give back the extra money you stole.  I never did manage to get anyone at NSTAR to acknowledge that you did anything wrong and apologize for it, nor do I really expect anyone to acknowledge that stopping my paper statements without my consent was wrong.

I’ll be sending a copy of this letter to the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Energy.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Kamens

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5 thoughts on “NSTAR stops sending people paper bills, without their permission

  1. Pingback: Something better to do » Blog Archive » NSTAR turns off paper billing without customers’ consent AGAIN

  2. jik Post author

    Here’s the answer I got, 17 days after I sent my letter to NSTAR:

    Dear Mr. Kamens:

    I am responding to your request to receive paper bills.

    I am happy to help; however, we require some information first. Please provide your account number or address along with the last four digits of your social security number. You can either email or call us with this information.

    If you prefer, you may turn the Paper Bill option back on yourself. Simply select the Linked Accounts tab from My Profile on the left-hand navigation bar. Then, click Edit on the right side of the screen. Next, click the Receive Paper Bill option. Once you click the button, you will be brought to a new screen. Here, choose . The system has accepted your changes.

    If you have any further questions or require additional assistance, please feel free to contact us via email or call us at 1-800-592-2000.

    Sincerely,

    Customer Interaction Center

    I find it fascinating that they “require some information” to turn my paper billing back on, but didn’t “require some information” to turn it off without my consent.  I also find it somewhat amusing that they seem to think they can’t identify who I am from my email, given that I gave them my full name and my email address, which corresponds to the email address which I registered when I signed up for their E-Bill service.

    Yet another instance of the kind of customer service you tend to get from a monopoly.

    Reply
  3. jik Post author

    Well, yes, I could withdraw from the E-Bill service, but I really shouldn’t have to choose between being able to pay my bill online and being able to receive bills on paper.

    Also, there’s actually no way to withdraw from the E-Bill service through their Web site. I guess you have to contact their customer service department to do that. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I did, they wouldn’t know what to do about it.

    I did manage to find the “paperless” setting on their Web site this morning, and it is still editable, so I put it back how it was before. That is, when they sent me the email on August 14, they changed the settings on my account to disable paper bills, but I went and changed it back this morning. I have no idea if it’ll work.

    Reply
  4. Elka

    Can you go back to receiving paper bills by not paying online? (I resist changing to any kind of automatic payment, I don’t trust the companies not to mess something up.)

    Reply
  5. steve garfield

    Nice work.

    I bet their email notofication makes you log on to the system to determine the bill amount instead of telling you in an email.

    Lame.

    Reply

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