Duke Energy announced Tuesday a coding error in its payment reporting system has potentially impacted up to half a million customers.
Duke Energy is notifying customers in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana that some of their monthly payments had been reported as “late” to the National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange (NCTUE), a credit data exchange service for a member group of 70 telecommunication, pay-TV and utility industries.
Sally Thelen, spokeswoman for Duke Energy, said in late August the company was notified by a customer in Ohio that she had trouble acquiring a line of credit with a different utility company due to incorrect account information. NCTUE shares account and payment information with its members to help the companies “determine the credit worthiness of new customers,” Thelen said.
“Her credit score wasn’t what she thought it would be. … We looked into it and it was not an isolated issue,” Thelen said.
Thelen said as many as 500,000 current and former residential customers across the three states could be impacted. She said these are customers whom at any time since 2010 were on payment plans such as Budget Billing and Percentage of Income Payment Plan Plus (Ohio only).
“We billed accurately but it was the way we had it coded in the system,” Thelen said, that made it appear customers on budget billing had outstanding payments if they consumed more energy than their monthly payment covered. “We deeply regret the error occurred.”
The breakdown of customers potentially impacted is about 257,000 in Ohio, 205,000 in Indiana and 43,000 in Kentucky, according to Duke.
Thelen said the payment data of an additional 5,000 non-residential customers on payment plans may have been reported incorrectly to Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) and Equifax Commercial Services.
Thelen said customers should know that no personal information, such as social security numbers, was shared but only payment and account history data. She said Duke Energy is no longer a member of NCTUE, D&B or Equifax, and all previous information shared has now been blocked.
Duke Energy had used its membership in these organizations to aid in collecting unpaid bills.
“We used the database to get relocation information … to reach out to satisfy that debt,” Thelen said.
Demitra Wilson, spokeswoman for Equifax, said in a statement that Equifax manages the member database for NCTUE but is not a member of the Exchange and doesn’t contribute data to it. She said the member organizations within NCTUE “submit customer billing data to the Exchange, which other members are allowed to access, if their request meets legal and regulatory requirements.”