After meter error, huge bill, PSC investigates

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com Owner of Pattie's One Stop, Pattie Ferguson, was greeted with an $18,000 power bill from Tishomingo County Electric Association just before Christmas due to a meter-reading problem.

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Owner of Pattie’s One Stop, Pattie Ferguson, was greeted with an $18,000 power bill from Tishomingo County Electric Association just before Christmas due to a meter-reading problem.

By Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

TISHOMINGO – Pattie Ferguson opened her electric bill for Pattie’s One Stop in early December, and the $18,617 amount due took her breath away, though she knew it must be an error.

When her regular bill from Tishomingo County Electric Power Association arrived soon after with a more customary amount of $837, she was relieved.

“I thought the bill was a misprint, since I’ve been in my store five years,” Ferguson said. “I sent the $837 because that was about my normal bill, but I called and talked with a receptionist. I had to leave a message and called several more times, but nobody ever called me back.”

When she did hear from TCEPA, General Manager Robert Grisham arrived at her store days later to confirm the amount due of $18,617 was correct.

“There was an underbilling, and we’re trying to work that out with her, with her cooperation and the Public Service Commission,” Grisham said.

The underbilled amount covers a period of about two-and-a-half years, and Ferguson wondered how such an error could continue for so long without being detected.

“We do not routinely read every meter at least once a year,” Grisham said. “Our present schedule calls for a reading of all meters at least once every 24 months. Most rural electric cooperatives use a signal transmitted to a computer with usage, and that is taken by our billing service and bills taken from that.”

The billing system Grisham describes has been under scrutiny by the Public Service Commission for several months, said Northern District PSC Commissioner Brandon Presley.

“I have asked and we are undergoing a very intensive review of metering practices throughout the state after getting complaints through 2013,” Presley said. “I have had a concern about meter readings, that customers may not be getting a correct bill.”

In fact, the PSC helped the DeSoto County School District recover $900,000 for which they were overbilled, plus about $300,000 in accrued interest, Presley said.

“Ms. Ferguson filed a complaint with our office and it’s currently under investigation,” Presley said. “I’ve spoken with her and Tishomingo County Electric and have asked the legal department at the commission to review the complaint.”

TCEPA offered a payment plan for the underbilled amount, with Ferguson paying $450 every two weeks over five years, an arrangement Ferguson will not agree to without some answers.

Meanwhile, she is paying her regular monthly bill when it comes.

“My bill has been the same for five years,” Ferguson said. “I added some equipment and did things to cut down on my electric bill, cutting everything off at night and unplugging things. The problem was discovered in July and nobody comes and talks to me, they just send me a bill in the mail this many months later.”

The time since July has been spent investigating the source of the underbilling, Grisham said, and the increased bill is not due to an increase in Ferguson’s rate but an increase in usage.

“When he came to tell me and I started becoming emotional, he patted me on the shoulder and said ‘Ma’am, we don’t want to run you out of business’,” Ferguson said. But she’s worried that may be the result.

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com

  • jnord

    OK has anyone added the 450 every 2 weeks for 5 years does not add up to $18000, more like 54000.Maybe that’s what the problem is they can’t add.

  • Joe Hendrix

    I
    have seen this happen with customers in the Alcorn Electric coverage
    area. It usually happens when a customer has been charged residential
    rates for many years when in fact they were supposed to have a
    commercial rate. Is it fair? No, I don’t think so. As a business you set
    your as your goals a profit margin, this margin would include your
    utilities out. This business woman would have based hers on what
    information was available to her, the regular electrical bill being one
    of those variables. Now the TCEPA says she owes back commercial rate electrical cost
    and now she has no way to recover those cost as short notice. It really
    should not be her problem, she made no mistake, the power company did.
    She should not be libel for a mistake she had no control over. A
    consultation with an aggressive lawyer outside of Tishomingo county is
    in order for her.

  • barney fife

    $450 x 26 weeks / yr x 5 yrs = $58,500. So … TCEPA expects nearly $40,000 over & above what’s owed … for something that is clearly their own fault?!?!
    Wow … that’s almost as bad as a payday or title loan. Who do they think they are – the Mothers And Fathers Italian Association?

  • Raymond Oz

    TCEPA is WAY out of control. As a resident of Tish Co and a subscriber, they have no respect for you or your property, and will stand on your property and tell you as such. I contacted Mr. Presley’s office this summer for help with them. Mr. Grisham will avoid your calls and ignore your emails, and when you get to talk to him, he will tell you “Tough luck! You do want power, right?”
    I hope this subscriber gets some relief through the courts and the PSC’s office investigates TCEPA. I personally believe they are totally out of control.

  • Nicole Collier

    I work for patty and i believe this is rediculous..ive been there on several occasions when the men come to her store and r flat out rude! I feel like this is there screw up n the power company should b responsible for it…how exactly do u go over 2yrs not knowing something is wrong then all of a sudden expect someone to pay for the the mistake…its rediculous and crooked!

  • Beauregard Rippy

    People, GO READ YOUR OWN METER AND RECORD THE READING! Keep doing each month. Then you will have some kind of record that you can use to dispute any errors.

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