AKRON, Ohio - An exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation has prompted state regulators to shut down a local utility bill payment center following allegations that consumer bills went unpaid and their utilities cutoff.
Summit Check Cashing on Arlington Road in Akron has been issued a cease and desist order by regulators with the Ohio Department of Commerce.
The order, issued the Division of Financial Institutions, found it was necessary to "protect the public from unsafe and unsound practices".
But that was not how the Ohio Department of Commerce responded when we first uncovered complaints and asked the how the department could help with consumer allegations of fraud and theft.
Instead, the Commerce Department insisted the agency was exempt from licensing requirements and we were denied an on-camera interview to discuss our report. We were directed to a web link of Ohio law regarding the department's regulations.
Meanwhile, our investigation found that Summit Check Cashing was successfully sued in Akron Municipal Court for failing to pay a consumers electric bill.
No one from the check cashing agency appeared in court.
A magistrate found the agency "breached a contract" when it accepted money but "never forwarded payment to the utility."
In another case, Akron police records show a consumer grew so irate when she learned her bill was not paid, she began screaming at the clerk who, in turn, called police.
The clerk's 911 call referenced "one of her bills hasn't been paid and I've been trying to keep her calm."
On two occasions, we found frustrated consumers outside the agencies locked doors.
"My water's cut off and I paid my bill," said Dannen Gibson, who said he paid his $167 utility bill only to find the agency never transferred the cash.
In another instance, Krystin Morris showed up at the closed agency complaining "the electric company is going to turn off my electricity." Morris said she paid her bill weeks ago to a clerk at Summit Check Cashing.
As our investigation continued, and complaints continue to mount, the Ohio Department of Commerce suddenly told us "it made a mistake."
It turns out, agencies like Summit Check Cashing that also pay bills are regulated and licensed under state "money transfer" laws and issued a "cease and desist" order.
Summit Check Cashing can block the "cease and desist" order by obtaining a court ordered injunction.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Summit Check Cashing said it will make good on all unpaid bills and blamed the problem on a computer glitch.
Ohio utilities recommend that consumers only rely on "authorized payment centers" approved by local utilities.
A link to those centers can be found here:
-For Dominion East Ohio http://5.wews.com/fir
-For FirstEnergy http://5.wews.com/Liz
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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