For Immediate Release - May 27, 2004

Cashpoint Customers Urged to Scrutinize Recent Utility & Credit Statements

Regulated utilities and businesses to honor CashPoint receipts

Massachusetts Consumer Affairs Director Beth Lindstrom is urging consumers who have used the defunct New York-based bill processor CashPoint to examine their most recent statements to ensure that payments they made through CashPoint were credited to their accounts.

CashPoint Network Services, Inc., was forced into bankruptcy on April 22, 2004 after failing to remit utility and other bill payments it had collected from consumers. With more than 300 CashPoint outlets in the Northeast, it is possible that more than $100 million in customer payments were never forwarded to creditors.

The Consumer Affairs office, in conjunction with the Department of Telecommunications and Energy, has received assurances from its regulated utilities and companies that CashPoint customer receipts will be honored as proof of payment and that customers will not suffer service interruptions or late-fees as a result of missing payments made through CashPoint. Companies that will honor CashPoint payment receipts include: Verizon, KeySpan, NSTAR, Mass Electric, Western Mass Electric, Bay State Gas, AT&T, MCI and Unitil.

"We encourage all Massachusetts companies that accepted payments through CashPoint to accept their customers' CashPoint receipts as proof of payment," said Director Lindstrom. "We are very pleased that some of our companies, including Western Massachusetts Electric, have also chosen to submit their claims against CashPoint to the Bankruptcy Court and encourage others to do likewise," Lindstrom added.

"Our customers are very important to us and crediting the accounts of our customers who made verified payments through Cashpoint is the right thing to do," said Kerry J. Kuhlman, Western Massachusetts Electric Company President and Chief Operating Officer. "We will continue to protect the interests of our customers and our company as we work to resolve this complex issue," Kuhlman added.

Director Lindstrom pointed to the CashPoint bankruptcy as further proof that consumers should be seeking more secure and affordable modes of bill payment. "Low-cost checking accounts are available from regulated banks," said Director Lindstrom. The Basic Banking for Massachusetts program provides consumers with a low cost alternative to the convenient although more costly use of money orders and check cashing establishments to make payments. Currently, approximately 150 banks across Massachusetts participate in the Basic Banking program. Information about the program is available on the Division of Banks website at www.mass.gov/dob under the Consumer Services section.