State Looks For Answers In Appliance Rebate Debacle

State officials are trying to get to the bottom of what caused delays for so many people who tried to reserve a spot for an appliance rebate program. The phone lines and the website were overwhelmed, as nearly 39-thousand reservations were snapped up within a couple of hours on Wednesday. The Texas Comptroller's Office is expecting to get some answers by the end of the day on why tens of thousands of others couldn't get through. David Pitman reports.

The comptroller's office is waiting on an internal performance review by Helgeson Enterprises.  That's the company in Minnesota hired to run the web site and the call center for the Texas Trade Up Appliance Program.   Allen Spelce is a spokesman for the Texas Comptroller's office.  He says the contract laid out specific performance benchmarks for Helgeson to meet when it accepted applications for the rebate on Wednesday.

"Eighty percent of all calls were supposed to be answered in 20 seconds.  Website was supposed to be up 99.9 percent of the time.  And they should be able to handle up to almost 90,000 rebate applications."

Instead, thousands of applicants complained of busy signals, dropped calls, and lost connections.  Spelce says another problem is that some people who applied online received more confirmation numbers than for the two appliances they were allowed.

"Some received, y'know, six, seven, eight, nine, or ten.  So some of those.. we'll go through.. we'll look at.. and if you've got more than two — those extra reservations that some received, those will go to folks on the waiting list."

Spelce says it'll be early next week before it's known how many of the 60,000 people currently on the waiting list for appliance rebates will be able to get rebates of their own.   In the meantime, the comptroller's office is talking with the Attorney General and its own lawyers to see what legal recourse it might have, should it turn out that Helgeson didn't live up to the call center and website performance standards in the contract.

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David Pitman

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