Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Help Me Howard: $2400 FPL Bill
What is your monthly electric bill? Now imagine opening it and finding out its 20 times your normal bill. That's what's happening to one South Florida family who says the mistake is not their fault, but the electric company says you still have to pay it. Do they? It's why they called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- When you open your electric bill you usually know about what it will be, Norman always has.
Norman Spence: "It was usually like $125 dollars or so."
Then Norman got his January bill from FPL, $2,420.
Norman Spence: "I was upset and cussing to myself, but this must be something wrong."
Norman called FPL, which told him what was wrong, that someone had tampered with his meter.
Norman Spence: "When they put the new meters in couple of months ago there was a shortage on the meter reading so they had to go back three years and bill me for three years."
Norman and his wife bought the house in foreclosure in 2003. Apparently a prior owner had rigged the meter to cut down on the power bill.
Norman Spence: "According to the guy that changed the meter, it was tampered with. The stamp on it was before I came into the household."
FPL estimates the tampering lowered the electric bill about $60 a month. Norman doesn't buy it saying, they have no idea how much electricity he used a year, two years, three years ago.
Norman Spence: "How much electricity he used they don't know, they just give you an assumption."
Norman says instead of targeting him, FPL should find out who tampered with the meter and go after them or look in the mirror and blame the company that had no idea their meter had been messed with years ago.
Norman Spence: "I would like to see them take care of it themselves. FPL is a big corporation, I would like to see them take care of the bill themselves."
But FPL didn't think much of Norman's suggestion, so he called Help Me Howard to find out if the power company can come after you over a faulty meter by estimating how much electricity you might have used.
Howard Finkelstein: "Even though it may not seem fair, the law calls this unjust enrichment. Norman did nothing wrong, but according to FPL because a prior resident tampered with the meter Norman got a benefit and the law says he has to pay for it."
We then contacted FPL and give them credit. They worked with Norman. They sent this letter explaining how the meter had been tampered with and how they arrived at their estimate of the actual electricity used over the years. They added, they found no proof he had tampered with the meter and they gave him a 25 percent discount on the back bill and were giving him three years to pay it back. Meaning, Norman now has to pay an additional $50 a month. He may accept the offer and Howard says he has another option.
Howard Finkelstein: "While FPL has the right to estimate the amount of electricity Norman got for free, he does not have to accept their estimate. FPL is regulated by the Florida Public Service, you can file a complaint and they will decide how much if anything, Norman has to pay."
Norman wishes he had known his meter was tampered with when he bought his home, but realizes that would be tough.
Norman Spence: "When you buy a house, people watching this are gonna' say, 'I bought a house. How are you supposed to know if the meter has been tampered with? You don't know."
You can't know if it's been tampered with, if you suspect it, call FPL. Also, legally they could have billed Norman for the past five years, so three is sort of the break.
Finally, you can file a complaint with the public service commission if you have a complaint about FPL.
Left in the dark and need someone to light the way? You are powerless. Contact us. No-one ever said we are electric, but we don't charge so we got that going for us and you.
PSC Division of Service, Safety, and Consumer Assistance: