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PE ANNOUNCES STEPPED UP BILL COLLECTION EFFORTS

 PE ANNOUNCES STEPPED UP BILL COLLECTION EFFORTS
 PHILADELPHIA, March 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Philadelphia Electric Company


(NYSE: PE) (PE) said today that as part of its rate stabilization program it will begin on April 1 to implement more aggressive bill collection procedures for customers with overdue gas and electric accounts.
 The company said the new procedures were made necessary because the number and size of delinquent and unpaid bills have been rising sharply in recent years, thus raising PE's costs, which could lead to an increase in the bills of regular paying customers.
 Therefore, PE said that, acting strictly within state regulatory guidelines, it will be pursuing collection activities sooner and more frequently than in the past for customers with delinquent bills.
 The company said that if bills remain still unpaid after a reasonable period of time, service to customers will be shut off.
 In a mailing yesterday from PE division general managers, the company's 1.5 million customers were informed of the new procedures.
 The company also has informed state and local political, business and civic leaders of the changes, and will begin this weekend a four- week newspaper and radio advertising program in an effort to reach as many customers as possible.
 Joseph F. Paquette Jr., PE chairman and chief executive officer, said that write-offs for uncollectible PE residential bills have risen more than 120 percent in the last three years, increasing from $33 million in 1988 to $73 million in 1991.
 The size of charged-off residential bills also has increased substantially, he said, from an average of $488 in 1988 to $927 in 1991, or 90 percent.
 He said that only about four percent of PE's customers were responsible for the $73 million in write-offs in 1991, with 96 percent paying their bills, 80 percent of them basically on time.
 "Certainly," Paquette said, "part of the problem has been the recession, but another major problem is PE's lenient credit and collection procedures for customers who can pay their bills but do not."
 He added that a recent company assessment, comparing its collection with other major utilities, revealed that in both the time it takes the Company to shut off delinquent customers and in the percentages of customers shut off, PE had a more lenient record than almost any other utility.
 Also, he said, in a recent management audit of the company commissioned by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission PE's record of collecting overdue bills was called the most lenient in the state, if not the nation.
 "We acknowledge that assessment," Paquette said. "So we are making major changes to improve our business practices by being more aggressive in our bill collection efforts.
 "In changing our credit and collection procedures, we will benefit our good paying customers, because paying customers subsidize those who do not pay, as losses due to uncollectible accounts are included in our rates."
 PE, as part of its rate stabilization efforts, has already announced that its electric rates will be reduced by 7 percent by Jan. 1, 1993, and that it will not seek another base rate increase at least until 1994.
 In announcing the new collection procedures, Paquette stressed, "We wish to make the message very clear that although we will continue to work with customers who have legitimate difficulty in paying some of their bills, we will be far less lenient with those who can pay but do not."
 PE said there are a variety of state and federally funded programs to help low-income customers, with more than 25,000 customers already enrolled in its Customer Assistance Program, the only program of its kind in the state.
 PE urges payment-troubled customers to call the telephone number on their PE bills and ask for assistance.
 /delval/
 -0- 3/19/92
 /CONTACT: Bill Jones of Philadelphia Electric, 215-841-4129/
 (PE) CO: Philadelphia Electric Company ST: Pennsylvania IN: UTI SU:


JS -- PH011 -- 9605 03/19/92 10:55 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Mar 19, 1992
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