Utility Bill's "Estimate" Way Off

By: Alex Goldsmith Email
By: Alex Goldsmith Email

Lindsay Maldonado was a little shocked when she got her Consumers Energy bill this month. It was for $328, a little higher than she was expecting.

"My previous bill at this house has always been around $200 or a little over $200," said Maldonado.

So she called Consumers and was told she had an "estimated bill". But she was told that if she thought the estimate was wrong that there was a solution.

"If we needed it read properly we could go out and do it ourself," said Elgenal Williams, Maldonado's boyfriend.

So Williams went out to check the house's meter

"We gave them the numbers and she said, oh yeah, your bill is actually too much," said Maldonado. "It was only $196."

Consumers Energy's estimate was off by $132.

Consumers Energy spokesman Terry DeDoes says estimates like the one on Maldonado's bill happen when the company's meter readers can't get to a meter for some reason.

"Weather's probably the number one factor there are also cases where the meter is inaccessible and the land owner would have to grant us access," said DeDoes.

Nasty weather in February and during the winter means that many recent bills were estimated bills. DeDoes says the company factors in weather conditions, past usage and other elements when determining how much an estimated bill should be.

And DeDoes says even if there's a mistake with an estimate it will eventually get fixed.

"Next month when they get an actual read you'd still just be paying for the amount of energy they used," said DeDeos.

That's not good enough for Maldonado.

"I don't want to pay an extra [$132] right now on my gas bill because I don't have it to give right now," said Maldonado. "I have two kids and they're expensive."

Consumers encourages anyone who has an estimated bill that they think is way too high to do what Maldonado did and give them a call.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Big Pine Properties Location: Hastings/Comstock MI on Mar 12, 2011 at 05:05 PM
    We are Landlords in Comstock Michigan. Whenever a tenant moves out, the utilities get put back in our name, while we prepare the units for new tenants. Everytime, we provide actual numbers at the time of the change. EVERY time this has happened, Consumers has over-charged us and in many cases had also over charged our previous tenants! In several instances, our 'Estimated' bill was more than DOUBLE what it should have been. In one instance, we were drastically overbilled and had a new tenant ready to move in. We fought with Consumers to attempt to get a refund of the overpaid amount before the bill was changed to a new name. Consumers kept stating that we had not been over billed, even though we had the numbers to prove it. One day, I just happened to be on the premises doing some finishing touches, when a Consumers employee showed up to CHANGE OUT THE METER!! Obviously he was chased off the premises! These CROOKS must be reigned in!!! We are currently dealing with another like issue!
  • by Sandi on Mar 11, 2011 at 05:16 AM
    I think that everyone should take a good look not only at the new bills but go back and check over your old ones for Consumers and Board of Water & Light. You might be really surprised at what you find. I bet you will see in some cases bills amounts going up and down like a yo-yo.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 10, 2011 at 11:48 AM
    I worked for the call center, for DTE, and a meter reader is legally allowed to read your meter only once a year. They don't have to read your meter every month. I pay very close attention to my bills every month.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 10, 2011 at 11:46 AM
    If I wanted to read my own meter every month, I would have to go down to my leasing office, and be escorted into the room where our meters are. I would rather just be able to go out and read my meter any time I need to.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 10, 2011 at 11:23 AM
    Hey, we talked about this happening last summer. It's not just Consumers, but also the Lansing Board of Water & Light. Only difference is that when Consumers goofs they give you a credit, not so the Board.
  • by Barbara Location: Lansing on Mar 10, 2011 at 09:03 AM
    The other problem with this over billing is making sure that you don't get charged a late fee when you've sent in the "corrected" bill amount that is less than what THEY show.A glitch that they aren't paying attention to and you need to.
  • by nancy Location: lansing on Mar 10, 2011 at 08:15 AM
    This is nothing. They overcharged me by $1000 and I had to file a complaint with the PSC to get it fixed. It took over 6 months of fighting with them before they finally got my bill right.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 10, 2011 at 06:22 AM
    You need to understand how this estimation works. Many people don't question their bills, and as a result consumers can bill you over for one month, keep that money and earn millions of millions of dollars in interest in the money in their holding account. This is just another way that Consumers Energy profits by doing shady things. But thats ok... they donated heftily to Snyder's campaign.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 10, 2011 at 06:10 AM
    They do this all time if they can't out to do the reading they should at least duplicate the previous month. Instead of estimating at a higher cost
  • by Judy Location: Lansing on Mar 10, 2011 at 06:00 AM
    PS: Please let this customer know that she doesn't have to pay the high bill. Comsumers can either tell her how much the bill should have been or can send her a new bill.
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