Peco, a unit of Chicago's Exelon Corp., said it expected to save $2 million per year as a result of the program. That would represent 0.3 percent of Peco's first-quarter revenue. Peco said it was attempting to reduce the $35 million to $70 million it loses each year from bad accounts. The deficit varies according to the weather's effect on electricity and natural-gas use.
The deposit requirement could hit low-income customers particularly hard, said Philip Bertocci, a Community Legal Services lawyer who represents low-income Philadelphia utility customers.
"Low-income people can't afford to tie up too much money . . . as a deposit," Bertocci said.
Peco spokesman Michael Wood said the utility would work with such customers on a case-by-case basis. First-time job holders have to pay the deposit or have someone co-sign the account application, just as with a loan application.
Peco said it could not say when customers would get their deposits back. Allentown-based PPL Corp., which serves 1.3 million customers and also requires a deposit for new accounts, refunds deposits after one year if customers make payments.
Peco serves 1.52 million electricity customers in a five-county Philadelphia area and 442,000 natural-gas customers outside the city.
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