Between moving into a new home and keeping up with her son’s activities, Jennifer Walsh takes every chance she can to save money, including on energy.
“As my son has (grown) older, we certainly have (said), ‘Turn off the lights!’” said Walsh.
She was totally in the dark when her June statement came around from United Illuminating. The $302 charge, she said, is more than twice as much as what she usually pays.
"I just thought like, ‘How could this be?’ And then in a very small corner of the bill in very fine print you see it written that this is an estimated bill but it doesn’t really explain why it’s estimated," said Walsh.
All of the state’s major utility suppliers—UI, Eversource, Connecticut Natural Gas, and the MDC—will, if they cannot read your meter, estimate the cost of your monthly bill based on the same statement in previous years.
The problem with Walsh’s bill? She didn’t live there a year ago, and her usage is totally different from the previous homeowner.
“Using someone else’s record for mine just didn’t seem fair,” said Walsh.
She reached out to UI and a technician replaced the broken meter. As for the charges, she said, the company offered to assess usage after one month with the new meter and then would consider refunding her.
In the meantime, Walsh said, she was told to keep paying her bills based on the previous homeowner’s usage. That didn’t sit well with her.
"When they told us there was no process to rectify the situation, then you start looking outside the process," Walsh said.
That’s what led her to NBC Connecticut Responds. Shortly after speaking with Responds, a UI representative gave Walsh a more accurate estimated bill based on her own habits and offered a $212 credit to her following bill.
In a statement, United Illuminating’s Bill Reis, the company’s Vice President of Customer Care said:
“99.4 percent of the time our bills are based on actual readings from our meters. In this rare case, the meter did indeed malfunction and did not provide a reading. Our process is to provide an estimated bill based on that meter’s data from the exact time period one year earlier.
During this process, we remained in communication with the customer and regret any inconvenience. Following our standard process, we replaced the customer’s meter in July and compared the estimated bill with a reading from the new meter. We immediately credited the customer’s bank account and the customer seemed satisfied.”