Help! BG&E won’t refund my monthly service fee

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By Christopher Elliott

BG&E agrees to waive Larry Bauman’s monthly service fee but then charges him anyway. Is there a way to get his money back?

Question

I have a problem with Baltimore Gas & Electric (BG&E). I bought an air conditioner service plan through BGE Home, an independent service arm of BG&E. BGE Home has an agreement with BG&E to charge me the $42.90 monthly service fee for two air conditioning units and two furnaces through my monthly utility bill.  

In June 2022, I bought a new air conditioning unit from BGE Home. Since the new unit has a two-year warranty, BGE Home agreed to waive my monthly air conditioning service fee for the second unit (valued at $5 per month) for the next two years. That never happened despite numerous calls and email communications with both BG&E and BGE Home.  

The BGE Home representatives I’ve reached (after hour-long waits on hold) promised to remove the fee and refund my money. That is not happening, and I need help. Could you get the $25 in service fees incorrectly charged since June refunded and have BGE Home correct my future billing for the next two years? — Larry Bauman, Pikesville, Md. 

Answer

BG&E should have stopped charging you the monthly service fees when you bought the new air conditioning unit. Instead, it just kept billing you — and nothing you said or did would change that.

The BGE Home plan (now managed by Constellation Home) is a home warranty. For a monthly fee, BGE/Constellation promises to send a local, licensed technician, plumber or electrician to your home to make a required repair.

“Plus, there’s no limit on the number of repairs you receive each year,” the company says. “When you need us, we’ll be there.”

Yeah, it’ll be there alright — there to bill you.  

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It looks like you purchased a new air conditioner through BGE Home that already came with a warranty. So there was no point in paying for a second warranty. As the billing arm of BGE/Constellation Home, BG&E should have a system in place to account for these warranty overlaps. But, of course, building that system is expensive, and the company would only lose money by giving up these monthly maintenance fees, whether they are correct or not.

The one thing missing from this was a written agreement to waive the $5 monthly fee. If you had that, you might be able to wave that in BG&E’s face instead of having to extract a confession in each service call.

You decided to get off the phone and start writing. You contacted the Maryland Consumer Affairs Division, both companies, the BBB — and me. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of BG&E’s executives on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. (Here’s how to fix your own consumer problem.)

Sometimes, a scorched-earth approach works best. Some businesses won’t respond until they hear from everyone. And everyone is who BG&E and BGE/Constellation Home heard from after continuing to charge you an extra $5 a month. I admire your persistence. (Related: Uh-oh! My Expedia coupon had a little accident.)

I contacted BG&E on your behalf. You continued to apply pressure on the company to refund your money. After five months, a BGE/Constellation representative finally called you and agreed to fix the incorrect billing. BGE/Constellation also extended your warranty by two additional months as an apology. (Related: This surprise fee made her phone bill skyrocket.)

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Rio de Janeiro.

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