AKRON, Ohio - Neighborhood payment centers offering to pay gas, water and electric bills can leave consumers in the dark, if agencies fail to transmit payments to utility companies.
A 5 On Your Side investigation found consumers have filed complaints against Summit Check Cashing on Arlington Road in Akron. Consumers allege the company failed to pay utility bills, despite being given cash that was supposed to be transferred into the consumer's utility account.
According to the Ohio Department of Commerce, there are 27 companies licensed to provide money transfers in Ohio. Under Ohio law, each licensee can operate multiple branch offices across the state under a single license, allowing for hundreds of neighborhood payment centers to operate in communities across Ohio.
Neighborhood payment centers are often relied upon by individuals who avoid checking account fees and, instead, pay utility bills directly with cash that is transferred into their utility accounts.
But not all so-called "payment centers" are authorized by utilities.
Utilities we contacted warn consumers to only rely on "authorized payment centers" approved by individual utilities. Summit Check Cashing is not an approved payment center.
In addition, check cashing agencies are not licensed by the Ohio Department of Commerce if less than 5 percent of income is derived from check cashing. Summit Check Cashing was not licensed by the Ohio Department of Commerce.
Yet our investigation found it does fall under the department's regulations governing money transfers.
Tuesday at 11 p.m., an exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation reveals how state regulators were slow to respond to an inquiry that first uncovered serious allegations of fraud and theft.
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