How can I argue down an aberrantly high electrical bill?
August 17, 2010 5:43 AM Subscribe
Is it possible to get an electrical company to reduce an aberrantly high bill? Bonus complication: it was my final bill, so I no longer live in their service area and I no longer have access to the apartment in question.
posted by Johnny Assay to home & garden (13 answers total)
I lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Bloomington, Indiana for the last two years, and got electricity from a company whose name rhymes with "Cuke Energy". Over the summer months while I lived there, my bill was usually between $60-$80. So you can imagine my surprise when I opened the final bill, sent to me at my new address, and found that according to Cuke I owed nearly $170.
This charge, according to Cuke, was entirely due to my profligate energy usage: while I used between 450-700 kWh during the other summer months (Jun-Aug) I had lived at the address, they say that I used over 1800 kWh in the last month I lived there. I suspect that there was an error in the meter reading; given how hot July was, I can definitely believe that I consumed over 800 kWh, but an energy usage of triple (!) my previous summertime usage just seems entirely implausible. I've looked up the weather for the months that I still have bills for, and the period for which I got the aberrant bill was indeed the hottest since I've lived there: there were 434 cooling degree days in July, compared to 296 cooling degree days for the preceding June, the next hottest billing period. But still, it seems really unlikely that a ~50% increase in CDDs would result in a tripling of the energy used. (Or do I misunderstand the science here?)
I called Cuke's customer service line yesterday and spoke to a first-level telephone agent. He told me that all my readings were actual readings (not estimates) and said that he would schedule a re-reading for this Wednesday. Other than that, he was rather unhelpful, and was pretty adamant that if the reading came back the same, the bill would stand, full stop. I asked about dispute resolution procedures, and he implied that there weren't any. (IIRC, he repeated something about the bill standing if the re-reading comes back the same.)
As I noted up top, I now live nearly 1,000 miles away from Bloomington, and so I can't go look at the meter myself. I also can't flip breakers, check the insulation on appliances, or do anything that might help explain the extra usage (if it is in fact correct.) All I've got is weather data and my forceful personality (read: not forceful) to argue my case.
It's possible that this problem will all evaporate into thin air when I check my account balance on Thursday, but I suspect that it won't. Does the hivemind have any advice? Can I get these folks to see things my way? Or to at least discount the bill to something more reasonable? For any of you who've had dealings with Cuke Energy in the past, is there a billing dispute resolution procedure that I haven't been able to find yet? Any thoughts, advice, commiseration, or horror stories would be welcome.