Duke Energy clears $1,200 balance after On Your Side investigation

Power bill mix-up

GASTONIA, NC (WBTV) - Shelbee Ward and her two young children depend on electricity to live comfortably in their home every day.

Ward's four-year-old son likes watching cartoons. Her infant daughter, though, needs power for more than just lights and entertainment: she has a heart defect that requires treatment with machines that run on electricity.

That means Ward's daughter's life was in danger when Duke Energy shut her power off recently.

At issue was whether or not Ward was responsible for paying down a $1,200 balance left behind by her sister and her sister's boyfriend, who rented the house before her.

Ward opened a new account when she moved in. But Duke Energy carried the outstanding balance from her sister to her bill.

Ward said she spent hours on the phone with customer service to no avail.

"They hung up on me more times than I can count," she said. "They wanted their money and that was the only thing they cared about."

After her lights were turned off, Ward was able to scrounge together $1,100: $520 from her family and $580 from the Salvation Army.

But after Ward paid her bill and the lights were turned back on, Duke said she still owed $700. The company said they would disconnect her power again if she didn't pay by June 1.

That's when she called On Your Side Investigates for help.

A spokeswoman for Duke Energy said the balance from Ward's sister's account had been carried over in error.

"I don't know what you did but they called me back - out of the blue random nowhere - after ten hours at least on the phone with them and told me that they had made a clerical error," Ward said.

After we called, the balance from Ward's account had been cleared and she is now in good standing. Duke Energy also credited her account with the money that she overpaid due to their mistake.

"I called my mom immediately, we did a happy dance over the phone," Ward recalled after Duke Energy told her the balance had been adjusted.

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