On Your Side: Customer must pay $900 power bill from faulty meter

Published: Jun. 6, 2022 at 6:24 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 7, 2022 at 8:34 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A $900 power bill? She’s not the only one.

City Utilities of Springfield customers tell On Your Side dead meters are to blame.

“First, I thought it was a mistake,” said Alison Haveman.

Initially, Haveman did not believe it. She had a zero balance last month. Now she owes $947.22 for a total bill including electric, water, and natural gas. More than $800 is for natural gas, and it’s her June bill. A letter explaining her ‘gas meter was not correctly registering usage or a dead meter along with her statement.

“I just feel like they are trying to put part of the blame on me. And I did what I was supposed to do by paying my bill every month. Why weren’t they doing their job by making sure their equipment worked?” said Haveman.

Same story for Lovena Calhoun.

“This isn’t right,” she said.

She owes $130 for water.

“If they cared about a customer that’s been with them for over two decades and has been a good long-standing customer -- they’d say let’s split this in half with you. That’s reasonable, but no,” said Calhoun.

“Even though it might be a faulty meter, there’s still a bill that needs to be paid,” said Joel Alexander with City Utilities.

CU workers tell On Your Side customers are stuck with the bill. It’s all in the fine print.

The Service Rules and Regulations policy under Billing Corrections reads: Customer shall pay the actual correct figure.

“You’ve used that service. You’ve used that commodity. You can’t go back and put that back in the ground or in the pipes,” said Alexander.

These customers were paying a base pay. Now, they owe an adjusted amount, that’s calculated from history.

When Alexander was asked how many customers received dead meter notices recently, he said he did not know.

He said audits are common, and these letters go out monthly. On Your Side heard from a handful of customers who recently received faulty meter bills.

“I don’t know if there’s an uptick, but it may be we’ve had more time to sit back and do research on this, but it’s a continual process,” he said.

Both Lovena’s and Haveman’s bills show their meters did not work for eighteen months.

“We have 300 thousand meters. There are a lot of meters out there. We regret that it takes that long, but at the same point, that’s a lot of meters,” said Alexander.

Workers say it takes a while to find the bad ones. That’s why they’re knocking off six months of charges. Also, ‘shall not exceed twelve-monthly billing periods in the fine print.’

Still, for customers like Haveman, a single parent who cares for her son with autism, coming up with $800 is a hardship.

“I guess they can do it because where else are we supposed to get our power source from?” asked Haveman.

CU offers payment plans. Both of these customers made arrangements. Some non-profits help pay bills.

On Your Side asked for the total amount customers owed from dead meters within the last two months. Alexander said he didn’t know.

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