Few things are more frustrating than opening your utility bill and finding that you are being charged a higher amount than expected. Bills naturally fluctuate during summer and winter, but if you get an unusually high bill, it is most likely a billing error and takes just a few simple steps to clear up. Most of the billing is done by computer, and mistakes sometimes go unnoticed unless someone brings it to the attention of the utility company.
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Things you need
- Previous utility bills
- Returned checks or proof of payment
Locate and review your previous utility bills. The first thing to check is for a previous balance on the new bill. If there is no previous balance, then look at the usage for the month and compare it to the usage for the last month.
Contact the utility company and have a representative go over the bill with you. Write down the name of the person you spoke to and the date and time you called for future reference. Have the representative go over each charge and explain why the bill is so high. The rep may need to put you on hold and look up your previous billing statements.
Ask for an audit to check the accuracy of the bill. The company will need to investigate the matter further, which may take a few days. If the error is found, the company will issue you a credit, which should appear on your next bill. Pay the bill in the meantime to avoid disconnection of services. The amount will be deducted from your next bill.
Request a meter reading. The company can send someone out to read the meter to determine accuracy. Meter readings are sometimes estimated in the winter when the meters cannot be read. An actual reading is taken after that to correct the billing. Some people may not have been charged enough during winter months and get a big surprise when the bills catch up. If the billed amount is due to an estimated reading, request an extension to pay the extra amount.
If the problem has not been solved by the next billing cycle, call the company and ask to speak with a manager. The manager may be able to waive the charge if a reasonable explanation for it cannot be found.
Contact the Public Utilities Commission in your state and register a formal complaint. You can call the Assistance Hotline for further details at 1-888-782-8477. To file a formal complaint, write a letter stating the facts of your case and include your name, address, phone number, your energy account number, name of the company and include a copy of your bill and any documentation you have to prove your case.
Your complaint will be handled by an investigator. He or she will verify the facts provided and conduct an investigation.The company must respond to the commission within 21 days. If you are not satisfied with the PUCs findings, you may request a formal hearing.
Tips and warnings
- The best way to resolve problems with your energy bill is to tackle the problem right away. The sooner you start looking into it, the more time you will have to resolve the issue. If you do not pay the disputed amount it will not simply go away. It will remain as an unpaid balance, and the company may disconnect your service for non-payment. Check with your utility provider as to how many days an unpaid amount can stay on your account.
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