Utility Back Charges in Wisconsin Total $6.3 Million

Utility Back Charges in Wisconsin Total $6.3 Million

1/11/2012

 

Defective meters, data-entry errors, and many other problems, caused Wisconsin electricity consumers to receive an unpleasant surprise last year.

A total of $6.3 million in back charges were imposed by the 94 electric utilities that are operating in the state on almost 7,700 Wisconsin customers. This was revealed after an analysis of state records by Gannett Wisconsin Media was conducted.

On the other hand, the utilities also refunded some $5.2 million in overcharges to around 2,800 customers.

The charges are completely legal and in some instances, they are used to make up for stolen service. The charges are oftentimes referred to  by the industry as “billing corrections.”

However, Brian Carriere of Star Prairie in northwestern Wisconsin calls them something else.

Northern States Power Co slapped him with a a back charge of almost $1,000 in 2009. He said, “We had kind of a nightmare.”

Carriere was told by the utility that it had miscalculated his bills during an eight-month period when the utility was not able to access the meter of his home.

Utilities are allowed by state law to back bill for up to two years of faulty calculations, even those which are caused by the utilities themselves. Refunds cover up to six years of errors. Officials of utility companies, including those with Northern States Power, argue that the law allows them to make the necessary corrections.

They also say that back-billing circumstances are unfortunate but are sometimes unavoidable. However, they said that the system set in place by the state for making adjustments actually works.

Scott Meske, an associate director for Municipal Electric Utilities of Wisconsin, a group that represents 82 municipal-owned utilities, said “It’s not perfect, but the electric meters aren’t perfect, either.”

WRITTEN BY:

blakeh@wellsdrew.com