Friday, January 1, 2016

Eversource: Unintended consequences of a name change.


I wrote a draft of this blog entry while working a problem with automatic bill payment through Ally Bank, but never published it because I wasn't sure there was value to others in my doing so.  Today, I've decided to update and publish the entry as background for a larger article I'm working on that details the ongoing problems with the Bill Pay service on offer from Ally Bank.

The particular problem I had seems to be re-occurring, this time with a different back end provider for Ally Bank.  That situation will be detailed in a subsequent Article.  So this one is more relevant for an inventory of what can go wrong, and what did go wrong in the past.


Following excellent financial advice, I'm trying to put as much of my financial management on auto-pilot.  One way to do this is to have my bank auto-pay my bills.  My bank even has the ability to say, "If the bill is larger than X don't pay more."  I think that's a really good safeguard.

The Problem:

Starting 22 May 2015,  auto-pay broke for Eversource, formerly NSTAR.

Here is what I experienced:

I got email from Ally Bank saying they could not sign onto NSTAR to fetch my bill.
I signed on and confirmed that.
I signed onto NSTAR and thought I could easily solve the problem.

When I signed onto the NSTAR web site, I was taken to the Eversource migration assistant to create a new account on the Eversource web site.  This annoyed me.  If a company is going to change who they outsourced my services to, they should migrate their database and I should not have to be involved.

However, having said that, I would have to agree that service providers should not keep my passwords in clear text for migration. So if they can't migrate my encrypted identity, then ok, send me to a migration page to create new credentials that can be verified but NOT dumped back out in the clear.

I signed back on to my Ally Bank, and re-ran the account verification.  This time it said it was successful.

Except it wasn't.

Multiple times running the verify sign-on, all successful.
But every time I went back to my list of payees: "Please verify sign-on."

Ally Bank's solution: Delete and re-create the payee.
I did that, and along the way I saw they'd not fixed the bug I reported last year when I created the payee the first time.

If your payee database recognizes my payee do NOT make me supply the address and telephone number.  You have it.  Use it.

Anyway, I re-created the payee.
Same problem: Verify -> Success reported -> Please Verify.

Ally Bank's solution: Create a custom payee.
I pointed out that only payees known in their database can do auto-pay so this
was a non-solution.

Here is what I think is going on:

Ally Bank tried to get my bill this month and hit the migration assistant.
When I migrated my account basic login became possible.
But NSTAR changed where my bank needed to go to fetch bills.
The third party system used by my bank does not have an updated record for how to fetch ebills from Eversource.

So auto-pay is broken until the bill paying service updates their database to deal with how NSTAR changed to Eversource behind the scenes and broke it.

Next time you change your name, think about the consequences and get everybody on the same page.


After several conversations with several supervisors, on 9 June, my problem went to my Ally Bank's Executive Resolution group, but still required multiple emails and calls to get them to admit they were actually working with their third party billing back end provider to fix the problem.

When I received an email from Ally Bank saying they'd fixed the problem, I had to forward them the failure email received on 24 June showing things were still broken and that they didn't know it. Finally, on 26 June I got email from the Ally Bank auto-pay system showing a successful restart of the service that broke on 22 May.

I wonder how many users of my bank's auto-pay simply took their business elsewhere through the month of June while I foolishly worked at dragging them, kicking and screaming to a fix for a broken service.

Future topics I'm considering:

  • EDI is not hard but Checkfree and nationalgrid refuse to play well together.
  • nationalgrid online payments are all about their convenience and never about my protection.
  • Online Banking usability considerations.

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