A Colorado woman was surprised after Excel Energy installed a new smart meter on her home in July '22. After that installation, her monthly bill increased by several hundred dollars without any apparent reason. She then receives a large invoice for $2,983.27 for a period of 17 months prior, which is prohibited by the Code of Colorado Regulations, unless there is meter fraud or tampering.
Electricity is something very few of us can live without, yet many residents do not have a choice when it comes to having a smart meter installed to replace our existing electricity meter.
Colorado Woman Shocked by Bills After Receiving a Smart Meter
9News reported that Xcel Energy customer Michelle Barela from Broomfield, Colorado first noticed a problem shortly after she received an "installation notice" on her front door in July 2022. (Broomfield is located 13 miles northwest of Denver)
“I feel like it’s not [a] coincidence that my installation notice left on my door knob said July 9 and the billing problem started July 26,” Saunders said. "I do, maybe, two loads of laundry a week, and the dishwasher will run one time a week, and it's nothing out of the ordinary.” -Michelle Barela, Xcel Energy customer
“Usually, I pay about $115 because we don’t have A/C. When they put in the new smart meter about a month later, my bill, instead of being like around $115, it was $535.” -Michelle Barela, Xcel Energy customer
Then a much larger bill came for a period of the prior 17 months.
When she received a bill for $2,983.27, she was floored adding that most of this high bill was due to a "billing error" from September 2021 through February 2023.
When Michelle called Excel Energy customer service, they were of little help. She says the customer service person offered the option to get on a payment plan or to contact the Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP).
Excel Energy is Only Allowed to Go Back Six Months
The Public Utilities Commission Deputy Director Gene Camp says the rule is that they are "only allowed to invoice underbilling back up to six months*."
*This statement was researched and is true. The Code of Colorado Regulations says "In the event of under-billings not provided for in subparagraph (a)(I) or (III) of this rule (such as, but not limited to, an incorrect multiplier, an incorrect register, or a billing error), the utility may charge for the period during which the under-billing occurred, with such period not to exceed six months." (Source: Code of Colorado Regulations)
Xcel Energy Spokesperson Responds
An Xcel spokeswoman responded to this story at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, 24 May 2023.
The Xcel Energy spokesperson responded with the following:
“It is important to note that there are exceptions to this rule, such as meter tampering or fraud, which allow for collection outside the six-month guideline.”
When asked if Xcel was accusing the customers in our story of meter tampering or fraud, the spokeswoman said, “We cannot discuss individual customer account information due to privacy rules, but felt it was necessary to provide you a reason why the 6-month rule may not apply. Typically, there is more to a customer issue than what they share with reporters.” (Source: Excel Energy)
Excel Energy should provide evidence if they believe there was "meter tampering and fraud" at Michelle Barela's address.
Have you received a smart meter on your home and is your bill still accurate?
Do you think Michelle Barela is being unfairly billed?
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The Code of Colorado Regulations, Rule 4 CCR 723-4 "Rules Regulating Gas Utilities Billing and Service." Access date: 26 May 2023.
Xcel Energy's official Facebook page.
9News. "Xcel Energy wants back payments from customers after months of billing errors." 9NEWS. 24 May 2023.