Electric companies offer refunds on sky-high bills

The squeaky wheel, the saying goes, gets the grease.

Or, in the case of sky-high electric bills, the squeaky wheel gets the cash.

Many of you have complained about bills that doubled, tripled and even quadrupled, and many of you are now getting refunds because of those complaints.

Suzanne Shaw is one of them.

In January, the electric bill for Suzanne's Susquehanna Township condo was $162.

In February, it jumped. A lot.

“Four hundred and thirty-one dollars,” Suzanne said with emphasis. She's clearly still shocked by the number.

She had a variable rate with Pennsylvania Gas and Electric. In January it was 11 cents per kilowatt hour. In February, it doubled to 22 cents.

Suzanne's first two complaint calls to PG&E went unreturned.

“I then called the Public Utility Commission and that's when I found out there were a lot of complaints. Plus, I saw the article on abc27 about it as well. Finally, I called PG&E a third time and the lady said, 'we're sending you a refund check.' “

How much of a refund? $165.60.

“It takes me back down to what the bill probably should have been,” Shaw said. “So, I was very happy to get that back, but it would've been nice to not to have had to pay the $431 up front first.”

How can PG&E just hand out checks to disgruntled customers? I asked Doug Marcille, the CEO of parent company U.S. Gas and Electric.

“There are people that cannot afford the rates that the wholesale market has spiked to,” Marcille said by phone from the company's Florida headquarters. “We are doing our part to help them. We are absorbing part of that price increase ourselves, many times taking a loss.”

I also asked why a majority of the complaints seem to be aimed at Pennsylvania Gas and Electric?

“Because we are one of the largest marketers in Pennsylvania,” he said. “It's a matter of numbers.”

But the numbers Suzanne most cares about are the ones that are back in her bank account.

“It wasn't pleasant,” she said of the whole experience. “I'm glad it ended on a positive note, but I wouldn't want to have to go through that again.”

abc27 has gotten numerous reports of customers getting refunds from various companies, including PG&E. It typically requires a call to the electric supplier and a complaint call to the PUC.

But for those who persevere, like Suzanne, there have been payoffs in the end.

The state attorney general's office, the PUC, and the state's consumer advocate continue to investigate those high electric bills.


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