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View Full Version : Life How to Challenge a Gas Bill - Please Help


stlchiefs
03-24-2008, 09:06 PM
I need some advice on disputing a Gas Bill.

Long Story, big problem:

I move into my current place back in August 2007 and set up gas service in my name. The 1 bedroom apartment has a gas furnace and stove. My gas bills were around $50/month for the first few months and the suddenly doubled in November. I know it gets colder and the heater was used more, but I questioned this and while reviewing my bill noticed that my usage was estimated.

I called the gas company and asked for an actual reading and they said they couldn't give me an actual reading because they needed to change the battery in my meter because they weren't receiving a signal. I set up a time and had the battery changed, but the Gas Co. still couldn't get a signal and said they needed to change the meter. I set up said appointment and had a new meter installed. The Gas Co. said they could take the old meter in, take it apart and find out my actual usage since I moved in. The Gas Co suspended payments on my account while they recalculated my payments and now about 5 weeks later I received a gas bill for $650!!!

HOW DO I DISPUTE THIS? During the winter I kept my thermostat at 65 and used spaceheaters in the room I was in, this can't be correct.

I did talk to the tech who changed out my meter and he told me that he knows of no way to read a meter by taking it apart and if the dials weren't turning they don't know the correct reading. He said I should definitely dispute any charges they try to tack on. This is good ammo, but my problem is my estimated bill had climbed to $200+ for a 1 bedroom, I need these reduced as well.

Please Help with any advice as I don't have this kind of cash off hand. As a student I don't plan for $600+ gas bills.

DaFace
03-24-2008, 09:20 PM
Did they take an actual reading when you moved in? What about when they replaced your meter?

And how did they calculate the $650?

chief52
03-24-2008, 09:22 PM
Man, that sounds crazy. I work for Pacific Gas and Electric in California, so things may be a little different. I would first go down with all my facts straight and talk to a live person. Often we have customers come in with crazy bills and the clerks are able to take care of the problem right then and there. If the clerk I talk to does not help, I would ask for his/her boss.

If you get no where going through the company your next step is the Public Utilities Commission...at least that is what it is called in California. I am sure there is something similar there. Contact them and file a complaint. I would guess it can be done on line. I know when we receive a PUC complaint it gets the bosses attention. They do not like hearing from the PUC. They will have a small window of time and they will be forced to respond to the complaint.

I am a lineman and I totally back what the tech told you as far as not being able to take it apart and tell what the usage was. If it was not reading the usage there is no way to go back and get a reading! The only thing they can do is estimate and the old bills will prove that $650 is not a valid estimate.

How long has it been since you have had to pay a bill?

'Hamas' Jenkins
03-24-2008, 09:22 PM
http://www.epicycle.org.uk/images/minigun2.jpg

DaFace
03-24-2008, 09:29 PM
Well, I probably won't be around, but I'd say your first step would be to just call them up and talk to them about it. Sometimes you'll get someone who's reasonable and can help you out.

If that doesn't work, you might ask for historical usage data for your apartment. If you can get an idea of how much the bills were the previous year, you should be able to get a decent estimate of whether or not $650 is reasonable. Of course, prices have gone up, so you'll need to keep that in mind, but that should at least let you know how far off they might be.

chief52
03-24-2008, 09:30 PM
http://www.psc.mo.gov/

That is the web site of the Missouri Public Service Commission. If you go down the left side of the home page you will see a tab "File a Complaint" and it will take you through the steps on line. It WILL get action. First I would go down to the office and talk to a real person, however.

Bugeater
03-24-2008, 09:58 PM
All I can tell you is if your gas company is like mine, you are screwed. Good luck.

a1na2
03-24-2008, 10:20 PM
I would do as suggested and ask for a 5 year useage list for your apartment.

Unless you were cooking meth in the basement there shouldn't be any way that your bill could increase by that much over the time of a year.

Talk to the people at the office. All else fails contact a legal aid office.

stlchiefs
03-24-2008, 11:12 PM
Man, that sounds crazy. I work for Pacific Gas and Electric in California, so things may be a little different. I would first go down with all my facts straight and talk to a live person. Often we have customers come in with crazy bills and the clerks are able to take care of the problem right then and there. If the clerk I talk to does not help, I would ask for his/her boss.

If you get no where going through the company your next step is the Public Utilities Commission...at least that is what it is called in California. I am sure there is something similar there. Contact them and file a complaint. I would guess it can be done on line. I know when we receive a PUC complaint it gets the bosses attention. They do not like hearing from the PUC. They will have a small window of time and they will be forced to respond to the complaint.

I am a lineman and I totally back what the tech told you as far as not being able to take it apart and tell what the usage was. If it was not reading the usage there is no way to go back and get a reading! The only thing they can do is estimate and the old bills will prove that $650 is not a valid estimate.

How long has it been since you have had to pay a bill?

Thanks for the info. I haven't had to pay the past 2 bills (while payments were suspended), so according to them I owe approx. $150 from the past 2 bills and the rest is due to readjustments from past bills.

stlchiefs
03-24-2008, 11:14 PM
Well, I probably won't be around, but I'd say your first step would be to just call them up and talk to them about it. Sometimes you'll get someone who's reasonable and can help you out.

If that doesn't work, you might ask for historical usage data for your apartment. If you can get an idea of how much the bills were the previous year, you should be able to get a decent estimate of whether or not $650 is reasonable. Of course, prices have gone up, so you'll need to keep that in mind, but that should at least let you know how far off they might be.

This was my plan. Because I live in a four-plex I also planned on trying to get the usage data from the other 3 apartments during these months and comparing this to the usage they are trying to pin on me.

The thing I'd really like to find is proof that there is no way they can find past data by taking apart the broken meter.

Guru
03-24-2008, 11:20 PM
I need some advice on disputing a Gas Bill.

Long Story, big problem:

I move into my current place back in August 2007 and set up gas service in my name. The 1 bedroom apartment has a gas furnace and stove. My gas bills were around $50/month for the first few months and the suddenly doubled in November. I know it gets colder and the heater was used more, but I questioned this and while reviewing my bill noticed that my usage was estimated.

I called the gas company and asked for an actual reading and they said they couldn't give me an actual reading because they needed to change the battery in my meter because they weren't receiving a signal. I set up a time and had the battery changed, but the Gas Co. still couldn't get a signal and said they needed to change the meter. I set up said appointment and had a new meter installed. The Gas Co. said they could take the old meter in, take it apart and find out my actual usage since I moved in. The Gas Co suspended payments on my account while they recalculated my payments and now about 5 weeks later I received a gas bill for $650!!!

HOW DO I DISPUTE THIS? During the winter I kept my thermostat at 65 and used spaceheaters in the room I was in, this can't be correct.

I did talk to the tech who changed out my meter and he told me that he knows of no way to read a meter by taking it apart and if the dials weren't turning they don't know the correct reading. He said I should definitely dispute any charges they try to tack on. This is good ammo, but my problem is my estimated bill had climbed to $200+ for a 1 bedroom, I need these reduced as well.

Please Help with any advice as I don't have this kind of cash off hand. As a student I don't plan for $600+ gas bills.

$200 for a 1 BR apartment? WHAT!!!!!????? I have a 5 BR house and don't spend that for gas.

stlchiefs
03-24-2008, 11:21 PM
$200 for a 1 BR apartment? WHAT!!!!!????? I have a 5 BR house and don't spend that for gas.

Not to mention I keep it set at 60-65 degrees, primarily use space heaters and turn it off on the weekends when I'm gone (which is every weekend). Can you smell the BS?

Guru
03-24-2008, 11:25 PM
Not to mention I keep it set at 60-65 degrees, primarily use space heaters and turn it off on the weekends when I'm gone (which is every weekend). Can you smell the BS?

Don't what the utility is like in your area or even if you have a shot at winning but I would be challenging that tooth and nail. Something is VERY wrong with that picture.

Also, this is GAS ONLY right? Not gas and electric combined?

stlchiefs
03-24-2008, 11:28 PM
Don't what the utility is like in your area or even if you have a shot at winning but I would be challenging that tooth and nail. Something is VERY wrong with that picture.

Also, this is GAS ONLY right? Not gas and electric combined?

Oh, I'll be fighting it for sure.

Gas only, no electric or any other utility combined.

blueballs
03-25-2008, 01:17 AM
You must have a cute ass
they are dieing to pound the shit out of it

Skip Towne
03-25-2008, 06:14 AM
In the 80's I had a car wash that was attached to an auto service center. My only gas appliance was a 20 gallon water heater. I was getting $200-300 gas bills even when the car wash was closed due to cold. Long story short, the gas company was getting the two side by side meters confused. After we finally unraveled their mistakes they owed me $3000 +. I had to threaten to sue them to get the refund. Good luck to you. Utility companies are a bitch.

Donger
03-25-2008, 06:19 AM
Read your meters every month and keep a record.

chief52
03-25-2008, 07:53 AM
This was my plan. Because I live in a four-plex I also planned on trying to get the usage data from the other 3 apartments during these months and comparing this to the usage they are trying to pin on me.

The thing I'd really like to find is proof that there is no way they can find past data by taking apart the broken meter.

Checking the other apartments in the 4-plex would may be helpful, but they are not going to give you historical usage in the apartment. It is against the law, at least in CA. They will not give out anyone's usage without a court order. The law would love to be able to check everyone's usage for suspected illegal activity. That information is private.

DaFace
03-25-2008, 08:37 AM
Checking the other apartments in the 4-plex would may be helpful, but they are not going to give you historical usage in the apartment. It is against the law, at least in CA. They will not give out anyone's usage without a court order. The law would love to be able to check everyone's usage for suspected illegal activity. That information is private.

I've asked for previous-year averages on apartments before I've even rented them in Kansas. :shrug:

stlchiefs
03-25-2008, 10:37 AM
I talked to a bill pay tech this morning and she was of little help.

She told me that the came up with the amount owed based on my usage for the 1 good month of reading they have on the new meter. That month was Jan-Feb and I used 52 therms. Even taking this usage, from one of the coldest periods of the year, and multiplying it by the number of months they estimated I still come up with 260 therms, well below the 384 therms they estimate I used for the months Aug - Jan.

When I mentioned this they offered to reduce the amount I OWE THEM by 25%. I laughed at the lady and pointed out that in looking at the facts they most likely owe me a credit based on the amounts they've been charging me for estimated usage seeing as that I only used 52 therms during one of the coldest periods. She told me 25% was all she was authorized to reduce the amount by and said she'd be glad to have her boss call me w/in 3 days. I accepted this offer and told her that I was not being antagonistic, but wanted them to know I would be filing a complaint regarding this matter with the Missouri Public Service Commission seeing as that they were trying to drastically overcharge me on an amount they immediately admitted was high and refused to delete this charge when confronted with facts that show I most likely overpaid for usage. She told me that was my right, but they hoped I would wait to see how her boss handles the situation in a few days. I didn't plan on filing a complaint immediately, but wanted them to know this was something that I am contemplating and really wanted to light a fire under their arses.

SO, I'm waiting for the big boss to call and also am waiting to file with the Mo Public Service Commission.

DaFace
03-25-2008, 10:51 AM
Hopefully the boss will be more helpful. I can't imagine they wouldn't take more than 25% off if the numbers you gave are correct.

chief52
03-25-2008, 12:36 PM
I talked to a bill pay tech this morning and she was of little help.

She told me that the came up with the amount owed based on my usage for the 1 good month of reading they have on the new meter. That month was Jan-Feb and I used 52 therms. Even taking this usage, from one of the coldest periods of the year, and multiplying it by the number of months they estimated I still come up with 260 therms, well below the 384 therms they estimate I used for the months Aug - Jan.

When I mentioned this they offered to reduce the amount I OWE THEM by 25%. I laughed at the lady and pointed out that in looking at the facts they most likely owe me a credit based on the amounts they've been charging me for estimated usage seeing as that I only used 52 therms during one of the coldest periods. She told me 25% was all she was authorized to reduce the amount by and said she'd be glad to have her boss call me w/in 3 days. I accepted this offer and told her that I was not being antagonistic, but wanted them to know I would be filing a complaint regarding this matter with the Missouri Public Service Commission seeing as that they were trying to drastically overcharge me on an amount they immediately admitted was high and refused to delete this charge when confronted with facts that show I most likely overpaid for usage. She told me that was my right, but they hoped I would wait to see how her boss handles the situation in a few days. I didn't plan on filing a complaint immediately, but wanted them to know this was something that I am contemplating and really wanted to light a fire under their arses.

SO, I'm waiting for the big boss to call and also am waiting to file with the Mo Public Service Commission.

Good job. Stay firm but professional. I think it will do you the most good. You are right not to file a complaint until you have exhausted all attempts through the company. It does surprise me that the boss does not get back to you sooner than three days.

dtebbe
03-25-2008, 01:38 PM
I had a similar thing happen when we built our new warehouse. I have a 50kw generator that has a 350 chevy for a powerplant. I speced out the sizing for the gas line after talking with the manufacturer. When the guy from the gas company installed my gas service he went way over what I had specified and did a massive 2" supply at like 2 pounds of pressure. So I had to install regulators at all my appliances to make them work... a real pain in the ass.

The only things that use gas at my warehouse is the generator, and heat. Well, because of the huge service the tech installed (double what I had ordered) I was getting nailed almost $90 a month, just for a connection. I paid $90 even if I used no gas. It took 2 years of bitching and finally a threat to disconnect and install propane to finally get it adjusted. I now pay $30 for the privledge of being connected to the gas line. They did credit me for the $60 difference. Still, since the adjustment I've never had a $90 gas bill. Shows how bad they were dicking me.

DT

stlchiefs
03-25-2008, 07:48 PM
Yeah, based on them immediately admitting the "estimated" usage was too high it appears they try to get away with murder and only get reasonable when a customer is willing to call them on it.

Spott
03-25-2008, 07:50 PM
Damn, you keep your thermostat at 65? That's pretty damn cold.

stlchiefs
03-25-2008, 08:41 PM
The cost of law school necessitates the low temp, plus I'm not around much except late at night. A spaceheater and sweatshirt actually make it quite comfortable.

Thanks to all for the responses. The main thing I was hoping to find was someone who could verify the fact that the gas company couldn't obtain a better reading by taking apart the meter and this was provided (thanks Chief52). When I initially questioned the tech about their ability to do this today they backed off that previous statement and switched to the estimated usage reasoning, which I definitely have them beat on.

chief52
03-28-2008, 04:53 PM
So how goes the battle with the gas company? Did you get the call yet?

MTG#10
03-28-2008, 05:55 PM
Read your meters every month and keep a record.
Sound advice Mr. Donger. I go out and read my gas, electric, and water meters every two weeks and keep a detailed log. Ive caught my electric company once and my water company 3 times in the last year and a half trying to screw me on my bills.

stlchiefs
03-28-2008, 07:18 PM
So how goes the battle with the gas company? Did you get the call yet?

They said they'd get back to me by today and had not yet so I gave them a call around 4 this afternoon. I actually somehow ended up with the same tech from earlier in the week who said she had turned my acct. over to her boss and he wasn't done reviewing it yet. She told me to call back on Tuesday. I told her politely that my payments were currently suspended so it was in their best interest to get back to me once they had their things in order. I mentioned that I've called multiple times and am willing to pay my fair share, but it's up to them to get in touch with me when they are ready to discuss what that amount might be.

SO, long story short, nothing new and I'm playing the waiting game again. The positive is I don't have to pay for gas for another month or so . :thumb:

stlchiefs
04-22-2008, 09:07 AM
Alright, for those who followed or care, I settled everything with the gas company yesterday. I got them to admit they had no way of finding out usage from the broken meter. I also got them to agree to estimate my usage by looking at the 2 good months of usage they now have on the new meter, rather than on the usage from prior years when I lived here. It all saved me a little more than $200. They also agreed to set up a payment plan for the outstanding balance by taking the amount owed (since I haven't paid for gas since early December because of this dispute) and dividing it over a 5 month period.

Everything has worked out as good as could be. Thanks to all who provided helpful info, including blueballs for feeding my ego.

DaFace
04-22-2008, 09:19 AM
Alright, for those who followed or care, I settled everything with the gas company yesterday. I got them to admit they had no way of finding out usage from the broken meter. I also got them to agree to estimate my usage by looking at the 2 good months of usage they now have on the new meter, rather than on the usage from prior years when I lived here. It all saved me a little more than $200. They also agreed to set up a payment plan for the outstanding balance by taking the amount owed (since I haven't paid for gas since early December because of this dispute) and dividing it over a 5 month period.

Everything has worked out as good as could be. Thanks to all who provided helpful info, including blueballs for feeding my ego.

Good to hear that they weren't complete douchebags about the ordeal. Congrats!

StcChief
04-22-2008, 09:33 AM
Call Laclede Gas.... that's outrageous.... was Apt empty for awhile and landlord should be getting that bill. or the meter wasn't read since empty.