CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A Charlotte couple called On Your Side Investigates for help after Duke Energy billed them for charges related to a stolen meter they were later found to be not responsible for.
Denita Stigall and Lee Studwick were surprised to hear their power go out one morning as they sat in their Charlotte home.
Stigall and Studwick—who are husband and wife—say they always pay their bill on time and have never had any problems with Duke Energy before.
"I went and looked outside, and there was someone out there. He told me there was an unauthorized meter in my box," Stigall said. "We didn't even know where [the meters] were located, because there's no need for us to know those things because we're totally blind."
Both Stigall and Studwick are blind and do not use lights in their house. They do, however, rely on electricity to power Studwick's nebulizer, run a machine that reads their mail to them and to listen to TV to hear the news and weather.
Ultimately, investigators with Duke Power determined the couple did not tamper with the meter on their power box—that someone else had instead. Still, Stigall and Studwick were without power for more than 12 hours.
"I stressed that to them, especially with his medical condition, and they said that they would try to expedite getting our power back on but that didn't happen."
Duke Energy assessed various fees associated with the power disconnect and the tampered meter. Most of those fees were eventually waived but some still remained when the couple called On Your Side Investigates.
Their power had also been turned off a second time as the result of a miscommunication error amongst employees at Duke.
Ultimately, after a call from On Your Side Investigates, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy said all charges had been waived.
Meghan Musgrave, the Duke Energy spokeswoman, said the company takes all cases of suspected energy theft seriously for several reasons.
"We want to be able to investigate all suspicions of energy theft because those costs are passed on to customers and it is also dangerous," Musgrave said. "It can lead to shock or even death. So we want to work with the community so we can conduct investigations to make sure we are protecting our customers, not only from the costs but as well as the dangers."
Ultimately, Stigall and Studwick were just happy Duke was able to adjust their bill.
"We just don't want this to happen to anyone else who's visually impaired or handicapped, and you know, if someone comes and tries to do something illegal, we don't want to have to suffer for that."