Utility Bill overcharging

There are over 150 cost components to every utility bill, which means there are 150 opportunities for an error to pop-up on your statement.  If you have ever had the feeling that your business was being overcharged, or you’ve found a figure that just doesn’t look right, you might be correct.  It’s not always safe to assume that the utility gets it right every time, because believe it or not, accidental overcharges happen more often that you’d think.

Here's Three Examples of Businesses That Were Lucky Enough to Catch These Mistakes:

1. The owner of a small RV park in Tallahassee, Florida discovered that he was being overcharged for utilities for several years.  His business qualified for a sales tax exemption but the city failed to notify him of this.  Only certain businesses qualify for a tax exemption, but the city felt that it was the responsibility of the business owner to find out.  It’s a good thing this owner looked into it because he ended up getting a rebate of approximately $5,600.

2. In 2012, roughly 100,000 electricity customers in Austin, Texas experienced problems with their bills due to a malfunction in the bill collecting system.  Some customers did not receive a bill for several months, some customers got charged multiple times, and others were notified that their payment got rejected even though it, indeed, went through.  In some situations, companies that owed $3,000 received a bill for $30,000 or even $300,000!

3. Another example occurred at a residential home in Richmond, Virginia this past year.  The monthly water bill for her family of three was averaging $400 a month, enough to supply about 24,000 gallons of water.  As a comparison, the average family of three typically only uses about 6,000 gallons per month.  She knew something wasn’t right so she called City Hall several times to try and get to the bottom of this.  It turns out that her meter was not reading the usage properly and the city owed her over $1,000 for the overcharges.

There are quite a few ways that could lead to errors on your utility bill and it could be difficult for the average customer to spot them all.  Your electricity, natural gas, water, and even your telephone bill could include mistakes.  If you are uncomfortable looking at every little detail on your bill, or you just think something is off, consider working with an energy consultant that offers a bill auditing service.  Be wary though, a trustworthy agency will charge a fee only after they find an error and obtain a refund for you.

Photo Credit: Utility Savings/shutterstock