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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