Quite the surprise to me, two different utilities I visited in the past month both honor payments postmarked by the due date as on-time payments, even if the payment isn’t received in the utility office until days after the due date.

Lots of additional work

In a time when most utility offices are trying to find ways to be more efficient (think automated meter reading , outsource bill printing, and online bill pay), honoring postmarks increases your workload twofold:

  • The person opening the mail must examine the postmark of every mail payment received after the penalty is applied.
  • For any payments that were postmarked before the due date, an adjustment must be entered to remove the penalty from the affected account.

In what for many utilities may simply be a case of the TTWWADI syndrome, honoring postmarks continues because no one has questioned the practice.

Are you legally required to do it?

From my research, the best I can tell, this is modeled after the way taxes are collected. Statutorily, some taxing entities (does April 15 come to mind?) are required to honor payments postmarked by the due date as being paid on time.

Do you think your customer’s credit card or mortgage companies check the postmarks of every payment they receive?

If you still aren’t convinced, please take a minute to Google “utility bill payments postmark” and see how many utilities do and do not honor postmarks.

If you aren’t legally required to honor postmarks and you still do, I encourage you to stop. If this is part of an ordinance or a rate tariff, take it up with the governing body or utility commission and revise your ordinance or tariff. If it is simply a policy, alert your customers and change your policy.

Do you have antiquated processes?

If you think the way you process payments (or do anything else in your office, for that matter) is outdated, please give me a call at 919-232-2320 or e-mail me at gsanders@logicssolutions.com to learn how a business review could help your utility.

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© 2015 Gary Sanders

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