Natural gas customers are seeing double -- on their bank drafts

LANCASTER -- As if prices weren't high enough, 3,300 natural gas customers were double-billed in Lancaster County on Thursday and Friday.

Customers of Lancaster County Natural Gas Authority were charged twice for last month's bill. Only customers who use automated bank drafts were affected. Most of those were residential customers, said Rocky Hudson, controller for the authority.

Hudson said the authority learned of the problem when a customer called at 8:05 a.m.

"It's been a trying day since this morning," Hudson said.

Hudson said they have spent most of the day calling customers and their banks.

"We've got everything transmitted back, hopefully," he said Friday afternoon.

He said he wasn't sure who was at fault, the authority or First Citizens Bank, which handled the transaction.

"It's quite a big amount of money," Hudson said, but he wouldn't disclose how much money had been overbilled to the customers.

One customer, Bill Griffin, wrote that he contacted the authority after noticing drafts being taken out for April 10 and April 11.

"Natural gas told me that they are not sure what happened," Griffin said.

First Citizens Bank, in Columbia, said human error caused the mistake.

The bank will have a meeting with the authority, Hudson said, to ensure the mistake is not duplicated.

Christie Hill, spokeswoman for First Citizens, said double drafting happens "very very rarely."

Hudson said if any customer's bank charges them an overdraft fee, the authority will pay the fee.

The authority has called customer's banks to put holds on the April 10 payments. The April 11 payments were the correct ones.

"We're going to do what needs to be done to get it fixed," Hudson said.