Troubleshooters: Online payment typo costs family $19,388

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After reading this story, you may want to double, even triple-checking when you submit a payment online. (WPVI)

Typos happen, right? We've all hit a wrong keystroke. But you've probably never made a mistake quite like this. And wait until you hear the response from PGW when it came to getting a refund.

Debbie Lutz of South Philadelphia tells us, "I didn't even want to tell anyone this happened to me."

Lutz says she accidentally hit the wrong key when paying a bill online through her bank, typing a 3 instead of a decimal point. So, instead of paying $19.88 she paid $19,388!

"I felt stupid. Who does this," Lutz said.

The mountain of money went out of Lutz's checking account to Philadelphia Gas Works.

Lutz says, "They confirmed that they had the money. They had this massive credit balance."

And she says PGW initially told her she'd get a refund check in a few weeks. But when the check never came, Lutz says she called PGW and got a different story.

She says PGW told her, "That the only way they will refund my money is by reversing the funds to the bank."

Here's the deal: Lutz did not use her debit or credit card and the money came directly out of her checking account like cash.

But Barry O'Sullivan from PGW says, "Our system tells us this was processed as a MasterCard transaction."

We told O'Sullivan that Lutz did not pay the bill using a MasterCard.

O'Sullivan responded by saying, "Well, it arrived in our system as a MasterCard transaction. She was using a MasterCard backed debit account. We have to follow the procedures they have in place to protect against fraud. Mrs. Lutz could have had her refund months ago. She decided not to initiate the charge back."

But Lutz disputes that and says after months of wrangling, she even set up a conference call with PGW and her bank to make the charge back happen.

Lutz's bank, a division of Univest, says: "It is not possible for the bank to electronically initiate a reversal. Once a payment has been authorized and funds have been paid, we are unable to reverse any payment that has already been accepted by a bill payee."

We explained to O'Sullivan the bank's stance, that PGW is asking the bank to do something it cannot do.

We then asked, what position does that put your customer in?

O'Sullivan said, "Well, I think it's very unfortunate for our customer that she seems to have uniquely found a bank that is incapable of processing a charge back."

But while PGW blames the bank, the American Bankers Association also says it is the utility itself that would have to initiate this kind of electronic refund.

Debbie's husband, Bill Lutz, says, "I don't care if they deliver it in pennies. It's my money."

Eight months after the Lutzs realized their mistake and asked for a refund they received a letter from PGW's attorney offering to send the couple a refund check if the Lutzs agreed not to talk about it!

Bill Lutz says, "Basically, they're bullies."

Debbie tells us, "I do think it's important people know what happened."

So, the Lutzs did not accept PGW's offer.

The good news is, after Action News talked to PGW the Lutzs did finally receive a $19,317 refund check without signing a thing.

Now, PGW tells Action News this year it is on track to issue approximately 7,700 refunds without incident.

But the Lutzs tell us they're glad they could get their story out as a warning to others.
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