Sherfox Holmes is on the case in Michigan, where Consumers Energy hasn't been reading electric meters with any regularity, which has resulted in the outrageous "catch up" bills that are all-too-familiar to West Virginians.
Sherfox, the Michigan Public Utility Commission and Consumers Energy have put their noggins together (well, at least Sherfox believes it has some role in this) to determine that Consumers is not reading electric meters at least once a year. In fact, one lady complained that she hadn't received a meter reading in over 3 years -- once when she moved in and once just recently, which gave her a balance of over $3,000.
In the meantime, there’s still some people out there getting hit with high bills that they can’t afford.
“When we received the bill, I was like 'What has happened? I don’t understand this,'” said Carol Armstrong.
Armstrong requested three years worth of her energy bills after she got hit with an over $3,000 bill. She found out they had estimated her bill for three years except for twice: the month she moved into her house, and the month they charged her over $3,000.
Initially, Consumers Energy told Armstrong she would have to pay an additional $438 to each bill until it was paid off.
“They say it like it’s nothing. I told them well you say that like it’s nothing, but let me ask you question. If you went to your house today and opened your mailbox, and you had a bill in there like that, how would you feel? She said 'I wouldn’t be able to pay it,'” said Armstrong.
That’s when Armstrong contacted the Michigan Public Service Commission who told her she actually had three years to pay it back, the same amount of time they estimated her electric usage.
This is no solution! It gives consumers an inaccurate picture of their energy use and causes financial hardship. Interesting though that a consumer can be "late" paying an estimated bill with no repercussions. Maybe the customers should start refusing to pay their estimated bills to inspire the utility to get off its dead behind and read meters?
Although, the MI PSC found a better solution to the problem than the WV PSC ever did... smart meters! The MI PSC thinks the problem will go away when customers have smart meters and has encouraged the company to step up its smart meter installation. But, as long as there's controversy about smart meter fees, the company isn't inspired to do anything to fix the problem.
Here's the deal: Multiple estimates screw up any algorithm that estimates future bills. It doesn't take a detective to figure this out. Consumers Energy has screwed things up by shirking its duties, and the MI PSC has allowed this to happen by shirking its own duties. And consumers will pay. They always do.