Puget Sound Energy offices in Freeland and Oak Harbor will be permanently closing this summer as part of a statewide reduction of customer service centers.
The company announced it is closing offices in seven locations because more customers are paying bills online and using mobile billing options.
“Fewer and fewer customers are using our customer service offices,” the company posted on its website. “Because of these changing needs, we’ve made the difficult decision to close our customer service offices in Bellingham, Ellensburg, Oak Harbor, Olympia, Freeland, Tacoma and Vashon Island by August 2019.”
Whidbey Island PSE customers will still be able to make payments in person at two locations — Langley City Hall and Walmart in Oak Harbor.
The company said it’s retaining more than 100 payment outlets in stores and government offices within its service area for the estimated 2.5 percent of customers who prefer paying in person.
“This translates to about 49,000 people who visited a customer service office last year, and this number has been declining for many years,” the company said. “This decision was not made easily. We understand that changing routines is difficult. It’s our sincerest hope that we can make the transition as easy as possible for these customers.”
Last year, PSE launched a bill-payment app and updated its website with payment features, including custom payment options, such as payment arrangements and budget payment plans.
Customers can also pay bills anytime using a credit or debit card on the company website as well as set up automatic payments through checking or bank accounts.
Three employees based at the PSE Freeland customer service office and two at the Oak Harbor office will retain their jobs, said Janet Kim, media engagement consultant with the utility company. PSE linemen based in the Whidbey Service Center in Oak Harbor will not be affected, she said.
Closing offices won’t necessarily translate into lower utility bills, the company explained.
“These closures are primarily due to changing customer habits, and PSE’s continued investment in self-service online tools,” it stated. “Any money saved due to these closures would be reflected in the company’s overall financial statements when realized, and reflected in rate filings with the Washington Utilities Commission once they are known and measurable.”