“WTF?” Widespread Overcharging and Irregularities Reported from Utilities’ Bi-Monthly Analog Meter Reads and Estimated Billing- Tempers Flare at Washington State Forum

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Public anger erupts at a Washington State forum Tuesday night as residents react to “estimated bills” from bi-monthly meter reads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The utilities’ latest trick to separate you from your hard-earned cash appears to be the policy of bi-monthly reading and estimated billing for analog customers. We’ve been hearing from an increasing number of people that having their meter read only every other month while utilities estimate usage based upon the previous year, has pushed electric bills into a higher tier and resulted in massively inflated bills- hitting people hard in the wallet.

Last night, anger at such blatant and widespread utility company theft boiled over in Snohomish, Washington, where dozens of angry customers clutching inflated bills confronted their local utility district directors, who have a history of ethics violations and suspicious inside deals and contracts. At times, the crowd framed the issue in terms of class differences, with directors being accused of being pampered and out of touch with working and middle class people.

It appears that bi-monthly reads and estimated bills are a trojan horse and a hidden penalty being introduced for analog customers, herding people into accepting “smart” meters. With time-of-use pricing on the horizon for many utility customers, and analog customers threatened with being forced into the highest tier, many are wondering whether the plan is to create a de facto smart meter mandate, without legal backing, based on economic coercion.

-6In December of 2014, California’s embattled Public Utilities Commission approved a smart meter “opt out” policy.  At the time, to some people, this policy appeared a kind of concession to those opting for analog meters, with a 3-year sunset on opt out fees. However, the hidden and ongoing costs associated with an estimated billing/ bi-monthly reading schedule are proving to be a “trojan horse” for higher smart meter opt out fees, the same way that some trojan horse “analog” meters contain unwanted and hidden transmitters and snooping electronics, in spite of their non-digital appearance.

Many US state regulatory commissions and municipal utilities (including in much of California) have been moving analog meter customers to bi-monthly reading schedules, ostensibly to save utilities money. However, the cost to consumers appears to be significant, as fuzzy, estimated readings boost billing totals.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 6.22.59 PMThe tactic also appears to be making utility companies a tidy profit.  It remains unclear why people can’t just read the dials on their own analog meters. Then we would have billions to spend on renewable energy and other essential projects, be using safer, reliable analogs, instead of a smart grid that fails to deliver, and generates a host of new hazards.  Meanwhile, both the political and electrical distribution systems remain mired in utility corruption, profit-taking and waste, while the planet burns.

Have you been unfairly overcharged, or shoved into a higher rate bracket because of utilities cutting corners and laying off workers, bringing in bi-monthly meter reads and ‘estimated’ bills?  Do you feel discriminated against as an analog customer? Are you mad as hell and not going to take it any more? Where are you located and what issues are you dealing with in your local area?

Let us know in the comments section below, or confidentially by e-mailing info@stopsmartmeters.org.

Fuzzy Math and Unfair Billing Allegations

Fuzzy Math and Unfair Billing Allegations Plaguing the “SmartGrid”

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20 Responses to “WTF?” Widespread Overcharging and Irregularities Reported from Utilities’ Bi-Monthly Analog Meter Reads and Estimated Billing- Tempers Flare at Washington State Forum

  1. Ronny Rat says:

    Was informed somewhere in 2015 of the “every-other-month” estimating process
    having li’l concern of this being a ‘RIP-OFF’ scheme & only that they were just
    trying to lessen the expense of EVERY-MONTH meter reading by half by doing an
    ‘estimating’ regime while assuring us to be ‘fair & acurrate’ on doing so. Tho
    feeling somewhat disenchanted w/the constant knowlege we are ALL paying for
    ‘every-month’ readings thru our ‘rate’ charges that, incidentally, are much higher
    these days, wasn’t too messed up over this new billing method until the December
    billing arrived, having no real idea was the very first ‘estimated’ month found a
    diff of 173 kWh LOWER than my reading, immediately believing it was likely an
    oversight of the meter reader & played back my DVR the day the meter reader
    should’ve been here finding was here reading only the neighbor’s analog across
    the street & no one else’s. Had emailed PG&E finding that Dec billing was the ‘first’
    estimating period & therefore the reason for the diff … HUH??!!?? That’s it?

    So what about next (cold) month in Jan using more power & 173kWh added to
    that will most likely falsely inflate my usage, putting me in HIGHER ‘tiers’, which
    it did (tiers #2 & #3) raising my bill roughly $45 more than it should’ve been.
    Haven’t been in higher tiers in MANY years.

    And for MANY years I have ALWAYS been reading & logging my usage EVERY
    -DAY watching how we’re doing to ensure we’re not OVERDOING it somehow.
    PG&E could only appoligize telling me “the diff won’t be ‘rolled over’ trying to
    confuse me with technical talk while refraining using the word ‘CARRIED’ over
    instead says “ROLLED” over while also assuring me things will be reviewed for utmost ‘accuracy’ before finalizing the billing statement. Well, back to rocket
    science.

    Be assured this is a DEFINITE, well planned scam of theirs to MILK opt-out
    customers as they simply make up ANY number they call ‘estimating’ to inten-
    tionally ‘manipulate’ our usage, putting us into higher tiers & trying to force
    us into accepting their DEADLY ‘smart meter’.

    I will be back upon any new developments as I have a few things up my sleeve
    to possibly counter this particular evil scheme. Even if NOT succesful will, at
    least, expose what I’ve found & better not see them reading the analog across
    the street again next week while WE’RE being ‘estimated’.

    Forgot to mention that another thing to be thinking about is this is also another
    way of taking money from the ones resisting paying the opt-out fees where any-
    thing above our ACTUAL usage will surely be covering / offsetting what we
    haven’t been paying on opt-out.

  2. K says:

    I am a Southern California Edison customer that has paid to opt out for 3 years, and finished paying the $10 monthly fee last year. Just got a letter from SCE that states: “We want to inform you of some upcoming changes to the Edison SmartConnect Opt-Out program in compliance with California Public Utilities Decision 14-12-078*. Beginning April 1, 2016 you will receive SCE bills based on physical meter reads every other month. In months without physical meter reads, estimated usage will be calculated based on the prior month’s daily average usage in compliance with SCE Tariff Rule 17.” So they are starting this here, but not based on last year’s read, but on our last month’s Daily Average Read. Does anyone know what “Tariff Rule 17” says – I can’t find it online, but see it quoted quite a bit in lawsuits against SCE, regarding estimated billing.

      • K says:

        Thanks for the link. I just got my SCE (2 month) bill that was from an actual read. So to split this bill in half, it would be a normal bill. Just thinking about my summer air conditioning bills, it probably will be close to $1,000 (I live in the high desert). I called SCE and they quoted the original CPUC Decision 14-12-078 from 12/18/14, page 51, where it states “we adopt TURN’s recommendation that the utilities modify their opt-out procedures to allow for bi-monthly (every two months) meter reading of the opt-out customers’ meters with estimated bills for the interim period”. I asked the Customer Service billing rep whether it was SCE’s option to bill every month, she stated “no, there is no option, it must be billed every other month” (unless you are a CARE customer). She said I could mail in money every other month (on those estimated months) and it would be applied to my actual bill the following month. I’ve decided to do that, because otherwise in the summer the bills will be outrageous. So for everyone out there, ask if you can mail in a check as usual. I have all of my bills from last year, so I will go by those amounts to make the payments.

        • K says:

          Does anyone know if it is required in the state of CA that the utilities send a paper bill every month, whether it is an estimated or actual read? I would like to be sure that SCE’s interpretation of the CPUC Decision 14-12-078 page 51 is correct that they are not required to send a paper bill to opt out customers.

  3. Ronny Rat says:

    Fri, Feb 26, 2016

    Where are ALL the OPPOSERS here on this issue? Was surely
    expecting a much LARGER ‘crowd’.

    This is truly APPALLING! You mean to tell me there’s only a
    COUPLE of us ‘opt-out’ customers getting ‘shafted’ / raped
    by PG&E? Would really like to know how this could be possible
    when MANY of you who are posting on this website MUST be
    opt-out customers. If you are somehow ‘exempt’ from this
    INSANE new ‘every-other month’ usage ESTIMATION process
    method, I would, SERIOUSLY, like to know HOW that is.

    Although, twice now, (including today, Friday, 26 & also on the
    28th of Dec 2015 which were NOT ‘meter reading’ days but
    were the days BILLED for) the meter reader shows up out on
    the street, gets out of the truck, foots it over to the nieghbor
    directly across from me, reads her analog, gets back in truck,
    drives up in front of next-door nieghbor (this is today) stops
    for a moment seemingly reading HIS meter while sitting in
    truck then leaves the scene. This is what this nieghbor informed
    me of today & not sure of his Dec 28 reading as he wasn’t
    present that day but I was able to view ‘playback’ thru my DVR
    which only sees the ‘unfriendly’ nieghbor across the st. At the
    same time (both times) the ‘reader’ did NOT read MY meter.
    So, anytime now, will be rec’vng billing statement, &, how much
    you wanna bet I have an ‘ESTIMATED’ billing completely ‘off’
    from my ‘ACTUAL’ usage whereby they’ll have the advantage,
    once again, to ‘MANIPULATE’ (falsely ‘inflate’) my ‘usage’ putting
    me in HIGHER tiers & charging me WELL OVER my actual $$$$$.
    I recently met w/a cple other local residents, MAD AS HELL over
    this monopolistic ‘takeover’, scared as hell where it’s all going from
    here.

    I understand that ‘TURN’ (The Utility Reform Network) is responsible
    in the ‘requiring’ of CPUC to require PG&E to implement this ‘ROBBERY’
    scheme. TURN is suppose to represent & protect us from these
    fraudulent practices where I complained to them, hearing NOTHING
    since then (several weeks ago) as they told me ” ‘MEMBERS’ come
    first”. Members? WHAT ‘Members’? They are suppose to be a ‘public’
    consumer advocate, non profit org & I see NOTHING mentioned on
    their ‘site’ about ‘MEMBERSHIP’.

    What a JOKE!

    For those reading this & experiencing this same ABUSE, your ‘input’
    here will, no doubt, be of GREAT value & benefit to EXPOSING this ,
    outrageuos, menacing, unscrupulous / ruthless maneuver against us.

    • Lorraine says:

      I TRULY UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU MEAN!!…I am a victim of SCE being over charged a tremendous amount every month. I will try to keep things brief so that you won’t be discouraged to reading lengthy information I would like to share. I have lived in my home since 10/14. I paid a little over $200 for a deposit, I do have a large family of 6 4 adults and kids. We use electricity in moderation keeping a healthy bill in mind. In the early months Jan -May, the bills were from $200 to $350 a month which is high but affordable for us. during the summer of 2015 we used ac quite a bit so expected a higher bill roughly around $500-$600 which is still in the affordable range. We pay our bills EVERY MONTH! and our income dropped because of loss wages & employment but still continued to pay bill. We had a couple of checks that was returned , when funds reached account late, but always paid soon after what ever amount of return was. After summer of 2015 is when our NIGHTMARE really! started. in September of 2015 we received a bill for a little over $5000 WTF!.. to our DISBELIEF we contacted SCE, they said we haven’t paid our bill in a year!!?? I never heard anything crazier. So going forward we made arrangements to pay bill, not knowing why or what we can do. We got help paying bill from utility assistance of just $1000 which question the bill as well. We are on a fixed income. receiving SSI and VA benefits. We have been paying monthly $500 to a $1000 a month excluding whatever the monthly bill is. I didn’t know what to do so we continue to call SCE to question bill and same response. A threat of disconnection and also inconsideration of our situation. I DO NOT believe that were being billed correctly! there has to be an ERROR of some sort down the line. We really need help because were currently on a payment plan of $550 a month excluding regular bill and this month I received a monthly bill of a little over $600 so that is due along with the $550 totaling over $110 for just 1 month. I really understand how you feel and hoping allot of others can come forward and join together to have this company investigated for FRAUD and THEFT to many others and a possible reimbursement which I’m sure allot of us are due for. thanks for your post, which inspired me to do the same..I’m really looking for some help to resolve the monthly stress and headaches I receive because of this company OUTRAGEOUS GREED and MONTHLY CHARGES.

  4. IanALSimers says:

    SDG&E is also implementing these punitive billing methods for opt out customers.
    All of CA is now represented here in the comments; and I’m sure other utility companies will follow suit. They want us to either get a smart meter so they can charge you outrageous fees through time of day or keep that analog meter so they can over estimate your usage by not reading your meter. Mr. Rat, the next time you see the meter reader across the street go over and approach him/her and ask to have your meter read. Explain to them the situation and politely ask them to have their supervisor call you. It’s worth a try and you might have results.
    Policy and procedures are not set by employees but are the ultimate responsibility of the board of directors of a company. Are the major utility companies in collusion together against the consumer? It would appear to be so. For years Californians have known that the CPUC is a sham; they are the foxes watching the hen house! Since you have had no luck with the ‘TURN’ group, perhaps the consumer advocate at your local TV station or newspaper could be effective.

  5. Oscar says:

    Thanks for pointing this out. My last PG&E bill was extremely high, like at least 125% higher than usual, but I looked into it and it might be legitimate because I think I ran the furnace a lot, but I’m not sure. The previous month’s bill was estimated but it didn’t go down and went up instead. This month it should be close to normal because I’m running the furnace only very little, so I’m definitely going to keep a close eye on my bill. And in May, it seems that I get switched to CleanPowerSF which seems to have rates about half as much as what I’m paying now, so we’ll see. I have the option to switch to it now but I don’t have time to be a guinea pig if something goes wrong.

    I had a problem years ago with my water meter in which the reader misread the numbers and caused a huge increase in my bill. I went out and read it correctly and sent it to the water company and they adjusted it.

    Even though PG&E and the other utilities don’t have an official program for customers to read the meters themselves and send it in, I would do it anyway. Just go out on the same day that PG&E is due to “read” or estimate your meter and note it and check your bill when it comes in. If it’s significantly different, I would send them an e-mail and tell them you read the meter on and you would like your bill adjusted to reflect it. Do it every month they estimate your meter if necessary. If they don’t adjust your bill, then go through their official dispute process (which I’m not familiar with), file a complaint with the CPUC, and if necessary once every one or two years go to small claims court to get your money back with interest. Hopefully during that timeframe their policy would get adjusted by the CPUC so you don’t need to continue doing that.

    Here’s the link that shows when PG&E reads your meter and you can click the chart to download it:
    http://pge.com/en/myhome/saveenergymoney/smartmeter/analogmeters/schedule/index.page

  6. Oscar says:

    Correction: “If it’s significantly different, I would send them an e-mail and tell them you read the meter on {this date} and the meter read {this number} and you would like your bill adjusted to reflect it.

  7. Mary says:

    We got the letter from Edison about a bi-monthly read on our analog meter, but so
    far that hasn’t happened but when I got the letter I went out and read my own meter and put the numbers down, and the following month as well and I intend to do so on a montly basis and if by chance that the electric company i.e Edison tries to screw me they will find themselves in court and so will the PUC. Trying to estimate someone’s electric use is unconstitutional. What if we have guest come in for the weekend or even someone comes from out of state to visit for a week, how will they know what the heck is going on.
    This is NOT right.. I’ll pull the dang thing off the wall before they get away with this.
    I have a solar oven and can just as well do my cooking outside in that for a very long time, and have other solar ways of cooking and washing as well. Keep it up Edison and your all going to be out of work.

  8. Craig says:

    My SDGE utility bill last month was unusually small. I figured it was a catch up from an actual meter read and they had estimated the previous two months.

    I have refused to pay the opt out meter exchange fee and the monthly reading fee ever since I had the analog meter put back due to severe health problems caused by their SM. I only pay the actual charges. I have sent them two letters demanding they remove the charges, but they tell me they can’t. They have never threatened me with delinquency or shut-off. It may be because I notified them in writing when I filled out their on-line form that I refused to pay the fees, but must have the meter replaced due to health problems. I screen captured my opt-out form notice and saved the image for evidence.

    Regarding the estimated meter readings and preventing escalated billings, my suggestion is to read your own meter, write down the numbers, and take a digital photo with a date/time stamp. When your bill comes, compare your meter read with their bill. If it differs greatly, make your own math adjustment based on their billing charges, and pay only what you calculate that you owe sending them a copy of the photo with your meter read number. You should be able to time this exactly to the date of the utility meter read as their bill indicates the date of the next meter reading.

  9. Sean says:

    All I can add to this is I’m on the True up method where once a year at my true up time they add up all payments I’ve made during the year-true up to true up for me is Oct to Oct. Since I don’t want a huge bill I still pay monthly and that includes the small electrical charge amount and I read my own meter-analog of course on the same day they do according to the meter read schedule and I note the time as well. I’ve been getting the same BS from PG&E, every other month estimate reads, so far if it’s higher on one by the next one it usually balances out, my usage is usually the same month to month year to year but with my solar depending on the weather, their est can be higher than my reading. So, example since I pay monthly even though it says the amount I’ve entered is more than twice the amount due-another sneaky maneuver they use since they’re only using that small electrical charge as all I owe-and using my usage statistics online I can compare as close as I can get for the kwh’s and cost based on previous bills, since I did this all last year when they did the true up I came out ahead and had a high credit amount from which they deduct only that small charge amt all yr. but you have to keep track of it so you know when you’ve used that credit amt up-they will not deduct the actual monthly amt I pay from it I have to do that and I must say that’s just rotten of them to do, it took me awhile to realize this since I’m not used to a credit amount showing a minus sign before the dollar amt and thought I owed them that amount that’s how I ended up with such a huge credit amt. As of today I did the math since I only paid the 1st bill and figured since cash was tight I’d use up my credit and I’m now evened out but that credit amt won’t reflect that, and will start monthly payments again going by MY readings and comparisons not theirs and since I’m on the true up method they can’t charge me for late payments anyway or I could wait till next true up but I’d have a large bill. They basically are punishing us for opting out and I feel sorry for anyone who goes by them telling you if you phone you have a credit amt but neglect to tell you they are figuring that according to that small electrical monthly charge and people could go all year thinking they still have a large credit amount but that will be deducted at true up time and they could end up owing a lot more than they were led to believe. Obviously this is from a solar system point of view but I thought there may be people out there that need to know this and it stinks when you think of all the $ they’re saving by not paying meter readers anymore plus less book-keeping charges and still they want more and what got me going today was reading about those trojan horse meters, rotten to the core these people are, don’t think I have one but will be getting an RF meter just to be sure.

  10. Tara Fryer says:

    Elect bill 615! It tripled! And summer just started wth!! My biggest bill last yr was 656! It’s because they estimate every other month they dont read every month so the estimated month didn’t charge us enough and new bill charged the new charges which have the difference in amount we used last month but thrown us in high high bracket but thats not fair because we used part of that the month before so how can they charge us for the most expensive tier when last months could have been a lower tier usage but they cant kno the difference that was used so im just screwed?!! The months they estimate are gonna be off previous read so now their gonna go off my 600 bill😡😡😡 How can this be fair???!

  11. Elizabeth says:

    I live in Huntingburg Indiana and my bill doubled for no legitimate reason. I made an inquiry on Facebook and found that my neighbors had the same thing happen.

  12. Albion says:

    Well I have a analog meter here in San Diego and they have started bi monthly reads and I have noticed my bill go up by $250 more then normal. I try to save on electricity by immediately stopping any A/C after this happened and even with that and stopping other usage, my bill is still higher then from a year ago. How do they expect people to conserve or want to conserve. I mean does this mean I have to shut down use of ANYTHING at all in order to get something I use to be able to afford to pay? The first time I called SDGE to complain about this, the so-called representative said three times, “Well why don’t you change over to a smart meter?” We had read the meter the same day they use to come out and read it and gave them the numbers, but they said, “We don’t take readings from customers.” They said they would extend my due date to 15 days or so later. It turns out when I called to get the balance and due date from the automated voice, it was still the same and I am late on the bill. So the next time I called I asked for the email for the billing department so I could send in the estimated numbers and ask them to revise my bill in writing. The rep, a female this time, said the billing dept doesn’t have an email. “How about a fax number?” No they don’t have that either, she said. So I asked where I can go to the department in person to drop off my letter. She said they don’t have a place where you can go. Days later…I called again. Turns out there is a way to be “rebilled” for two months that should accomplish what I am looking for so I called and asked to be “rebilled” for the last two months I have been overcharged. Finally they said, “Okay, but it’s going to take months for that to happen.” I asked why. She said the billing department don’t have enough people working there to catch up. Can you believe that? Huh? I said I will gladly apply for a job there to help them out since I am going to need another JOB just to pay my electric bill. She said, “Ha, ha, funny.” Yes, it is “funny” alright. Anyway, they told me to check into perhaps, “Medical Baseline Allowance” that should maybe be helpful but a doctor has to sign off on it. Their bi-monthly estimation program is a HUGE scam designed to make “unlimited” amounts of money off of you. Jerry Brown is letting them get away with this. If everyone made a complaint to their district attorney and the Attorney General, I would recommend this. SDGE are liars and thieves. They are trying to force everyone into using smart meters with this blatant tactic. They are totally obnoxious. Everytime I call them, I get a different story. They are literally destroying the economy with their monopoly. I am considering doing without electricity and going on candle power. I can use my office for my computer for which the rent costs less than their electric bill per month. I can use a generator or battery to power my cell phone. This is what I will have to do if this doesn’t change. I have no other choice as I don’t make enough money for their GREED and MONOPOLY.

  13. Dolby Dubrow says:

    I am mad as hell; I just got off the phone with those robbers. How dare they estimate me. Telling me, they charged me 700.00 based on my usage of Oct of last year. Are you fucking kidding me? Just because I did it yesterday, doesn’t mean I did it today. I pay them every month to be opted out, and they still are raping me. Where is the class action lawsuit for such injustice? What can we do, let’s start one now? I know there are more people out there too. We can go on social media and gather people to stop this rape…..

  14. R says:

    I had the same problem with PG&E and low usage estimates in the first month of the two month periods, followed by high usage in the second month pushing my bill to the next tier level.

    The first time this happened, I tried calling customer service and asking to have the bill adjusted and the customer service rep told me they could not adjust it. After repeated calls and request to speak to a supervisor, I eventually got to a supervisor who adjusted the charges (changing the bill for both months and crediting back my account) to an even split across the two month.

    After that they continued to be difficult every time I called in with the issue. I filed a complain on the CPUC web page and got back a call from a higher up manager in PG&E who agreed that I could call in and request to have the bills from both months recalculated to an even split. He gave me a direct phone number and said I could call him directly if I encounter any further difficulty on the issue.

    So far things seem ok, but too soon to tell yet.

  15. Karina T. says:

    Pge estimated my usage from 8/22-10/26 and I do have a smart meter installed. For whatever reason, they were unable to communicate with the meter from their end and so they had to send someone out to manually read it or reset it or something. How could they let this go on for so long??? Oh right, they make more money that way. So now I have a $900 bill on my hands for those two months when I haven’t run the a/c since early September.

  16. Mrs. Mary Seres says:

    The last of July I was in the hospital for almost a week with heart problems, my husband being there with me every day until I came home. Two days after we came home we got out Edison bill and that almost put me back in the hospital. It was for $472. We have lived in this house with 4 kids and grandkids and an A/C that has a automatic turn off during the summer months for high use by Edison of our choosing. We opted out of the SmartMeter over 3 years ago, paid our opt out fee of $75 and every month a $10 fee on top of that for 3 years. To get a bill for over $400 is not right and we noticed on the bill it says (estimated use) they are not even sending some one out to read our analog meter?
    This is not right. I have health issues above and beyond my heart issues as in thyroid (no thyroid gland) which makes me very sensitive to heat and cold as well. When I called Edison about this bill they said well she couldn’t tell my use because I didn’t have the Smart Meter, but that I could pay this bill over a 3 mo period and apply for a “Medical baseline” where the fee’s would be charged at a lower rate. What difference does that make if they are just estimating the cost. There is no one here in our home except my husband and me and two dogs, and then later in the evening my grandson comes home and then leaves at 6:30 a.m. every day. Something needs to be done about Edison and their over charging especially to those of us who have decided not to get the Smart Meters this is pure revenge. We have lived in this house for 36 years and never in our life living here has our electric bill been even near that rate. Can someone let me know if there are any lawsuits against Edison on this? Thank you.
    We are on fixed income, and we can’t afford this every month. This last bill we got even tho I applied for the medical baseline was still over a $100 and it has not been that high for years.

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