Opening utility bills in these tough economic times can be a dreaded task. We shudder before we tear open the envelope knowing rates have skyrocketed. More often than not, though, the sums on our monthly statements are justified, and we pay our bills, however begrudgingly, in order to keep our gas, power and phones in service. Every once in a while, though, the balance on a statement can seem inflated.
Citizens all across Texas noticed something fishy on their electricity bills and have now taken the state’s largest power provider to court for over billing. The lawsuit claims that Oncor Electric Delivery Co. installed defective “smart meters” that caused residential customers to be billed nearly $2,000 a month. Plaintiffs Robert and Jennifer Cordts say their already high monthly electric bills, which average anywhere between $400 and $700 per month, shot up to over $1,800 after a smart meter was installed. The ironic thing is that smart meters were designed to deliver more information to the utility company than average meters and are meant to adjust billing according to the time of day or season so that customers will actually pay less when demand is low and more when demand is high.
The Cordts say when they questioned Oncor about their ridiculously costly bills, the company interrogated them about their power habits regarding everything from Christmas lights to thermostat controls. Soon after they complained, the couple received another bill for more than $1,800. The lawsuit states that the Cordts have received three months worth of electrical bills that total nearly $5,000, an amount that deflates Oncor’s explanations of cold temperatures or additional use of lighting as the reason for the steep increases. The Cordts are seeking damages from Oncor for fraud and negligence.
According to the lawsuit, 829,000 smart meters were installed throughout the state. Oncor’s testing of the meters has thus far provided insignificant evidence that the meters produce fair and accurate billing data, according to the Cordts’ legal team. The lawsuit also alleges that CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric has admitted that the smart meters have technical glitches and flaws that could produce inaccurate billing information.