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Detroiters sued over utility debt

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When people are behind on their bills, it’s not uncommon for collections to come calling. A new investigation from Detroit’s Outlier Media and ProPublica finds that one of Michigan’s regional power companies, DTE, is taking an unusual route to deal with unpaid consumer debt.

What did they find? DTE is selling old debt – debt from years ago. AND one of the companies they sell it to has aggressive tactics to get that money back.

GUEST:

Sarah Alvarezeditor of Outlier Media

In response to the Outlier Media report, DTE released the following statement in the United States:

“DTE has not sold customer debt in the past 5 years, since 2017. Since the pandemic, overall customer debt has actually decreased. In our service territory, an unfortunately high percentage of our customers fall into below the poverty line, and we are doing aggressive, targeted outreach to let them know that financial assistance is available. We are not selling these customers’ debt. In FY21, eligible DTE customers received $119 million in financial assistance, and we expect that number to grow to $185 million this year .

“In 2017, some customers had become unresponsive to our relief efforts, and their outstanding debt was sold in an effort to ease the growing burden of higher rates on the rest of our customers. All of these customers had terminated the service, had closed accounts and left invoices unpaid. All debt sales include only closed customer accounts.”

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