Malfunctioning electric meter. What happens?

I have an employee who pays the bills and does some light book keeping. Friday she informed me the electric bill has been “weird” lately. She explained that the monthly bill has always been between two and three hundred dollars (she has been doing this job for ten years). However, the last six bills have each been $20.10.

So I had her pull out the bills and I took a look. Seems that the meter readings (no estimates, all actual readings) have, for the past six months, been the same exact number. Having used zero kWH of electricity I have been charged the various taxes/fees that come to $20.10.

The meter is outside. It is a digital meter belonging to the electric company. It has a tamper proof seal and appears fine.

So, what happens here? I guess I’ll have her contact them this week, but I’m curious. What if she had never brought it to my attention? What happens next?

I believe that once the power company figures it out…and they normally do…(your account will eventually show up on some exception report) they will fix the meter and then attempt to estimate your unpaid usage based upon past usage and send you a bill.

You of course can challenge their estimate.

Probably be best for you to call them and let them know the meter isn’t working.

That was my thinking as well, except it’s not that easy. I’m at work now. I pulled the old bills and called the number. The phone tree options are mostly geared to report an outage. After listening carefully “All other problems stay on the line for the next available operator” eventually stops playing on-hold muzak and hangs up.:frowning:

Then hit the buttons to report an outage. When you get a live person, tell them what’s up - if they say they’re not the right people, tell them what is going on with the hang ups in the phone tree. Sometimes they can transfer you internally. That’s what I had to do when I was having similar issues with the gas company (the phone tree not working and hanging up on me).

Outage reports are taken by entering your account number, no operator option.

Fuck it. I’ll wait till they find their meter problem.

You could try writing them a letter.

Make sure you send it with incorrect postage.

This is going to vary from state to state but where I am, if a meter has not been registering, the furthest back in time the utility company can estimate is six months. And they have to allow the customer some kind of payment schedule to pay it back, i.e., they can’t hit the customer for all the back usage at once.

Well, I tried. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for them to notice the problem. When they eventually contact me I’ll let whoever I speak with know that it was difficult/impossible to report.

As you say, it varies by state. I also would not be surprised to find it varies by whether the customer is a business or a consumer. The OP seems to be talking about a business account. Odds are much higher his state will not have consumer-friendly restrictions on how hard the utility can slam his business for the back charges.

Yes, Typically when it is discovered, they will estimate your usage based on the previous year April - Sept 2013 is now your April - Sept 2014 bill.

They will probably divide it up into 3 or 4 payments.
Why on earth did it take your employee 6 months to notice this ? It seems like the first month the red flag should have been waving.

Have you checked their website? There should be a number to call for billing questions or just some other random number you can call. You’re going to have to pay the difference and the longer you wait the more you’re going to have to pay. At least they’re usually nice about it and will probably offer you a payment plan. If you don’t want to pay it all at once I’ll bet they’ll offer to split it up over your next 6 or 12 bills.

No, write a note to them and include it with your check. Do that every month, and keep copies of those notes. Given their customer service (based on their phone tree), these will probably never make it to anyone who will do anything about it. They might even have their payment processing outsourced to some low-pay foreign company.

But those notes, and your phone efforts (document them!) will be helpful when they eventually do find the problem, and want to demand thousands of dollars in past due charges. With interest & penalties & late fees, etc. You will be able to prove that you made efforts to notify them of their problem. That will help when you take advantage of the laws in most states that limit how far back they can go to collect.

Not the sharpest knife in the drawer.:wink:

I love her dearly, and she does her job. If she sees a red flag it catches her attention just long enough for her to think, “what a cool flag!”

She made my travel arrangements for a work-related trip last year and misspelled my middle name, causing TSA headaches on my return trip. My middle name, which is on all the tax documents she deals with.:smiley:

I’ll suggest she do that later today. She has Mondays off and I’m finished being frustrated. She can take it from here.