PSI: New mom battles power company over big bill

By Jamie Boll - bio l email
Produced by Jeff Keene - email

NEWTON, NC (WBTV) - Dealora Snyder couldn't believe it when she opened her electric bill last month.

"I was like how," said Snyder. "How can it be that high?"

The bill she was staring at said she owed $579. Ten times higher than what was expected. Her modest Catawba County duplex supposedly sucked up 207 kilowatts a day during the month of August. A year ago she used just 18 kilowatts a day.

"I called Duke Power (Energy) and they told me it was based on usage and that I did use it and there was nothing I could do," said Snyder.

Snyder says Duke Customer Service told her to call an electrician because an appliance must be malfunctioning. She did and paid him $60 to come to her house. He found nothing.

"He checked everything he could think of," said Snyder.

The electrician even wrote a letter to Duke Energy saying "there are no appliances that could account for the amount of power usage" being reported.

"I don't really think that they (Duke Energy) believed me," said Snyder. "They're just kind of snobby when I call. It's not their problem, that kind of thing."

WBTV called Duke Energy's customer service line on behalf of Snyder. We were told the company would send someone out to the check the meter. The company did a couple days later.

"He said everything was running perfect," said Snyder. "The meter was great."

It was about the same time Snyder's September bill showed up in the mailbox. It was even higher than the month before.

Duke Energy finally realized there was a problem.

"We found that the meter that had been installed recently at her home was not reading accurately," said Duke Energy spokesperson Jason Walls.

Walls says equipment failures like the one at the Snyder's home is rare.

"It's disappointing that the customer had a negative experience," said Walls. "But our customer service representatives take a lot of pride and really hold themselves very accountable for serving all our customers."

Snyder's bill has been adjusted. Instead of owing nearly $1200 for the past two months, she owes less than $100.

"If I didn't have you guys (WBTV) helping me we really would have been living with my parents because we can't afford $1200," said Snyder.

Duke says customers should call right away if a bill seems unusually high, but says in most cases the problem is not the meter. It's why Duke says it asks customers to check things at home first.

High bill complaints to the North Carolina Utilities Commission are up more than 30% this year. Most came last winter when Duke enacted its first rate hike in 19 years.

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