Consumer Watch investigates Duke Energy for Jeffersonville business

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by Andy Treinen

WHAS11.com

Posted on December 29, 2010 at 4:42 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 29 at 7:10 PM

(WHAS11)  A business in Southern Indiana says Duke Energy overcharged over $100,000 in energy costs over a period of years.  They called the Public Service Commission, they called an attorney and then they called WHAS11’s Andy Treinen.  Andy answered for this week’s Consumer Watch.
 

Finish Design Woodworking in Jeffersonville, Indiana does some big jobs, but it’s the little details that have made them successful since 1994.  Still, the last five years have been challenging.  “It’s been a struggle,” said the company’s controller, Carol Snook.
 

Carol says when they moved into their current building in 2005, the company’s electric bills quadrupled before a rating problem was discovered by a Duke employee.  “They just had us in the wrong category,” explained Snook.
 

Carol first inquired about the higher bill in December of 2005 when the company first moved in, but was mistakenly told it was because of a dust collector.  It’s a mistake that has cost the company over $100,000.  Some simple mathematics indicated how much she thought they have overpaid.  “So, that’s 48 months at $2,500 a month, for a total of $120,000.  That’s a lot of money,” said Snook.
 

Kevin Hammersmith, from Duke Energy, acknowledges that is a lot of cash, but says the company and not Duke Energy selected the category that led to the higher bill.  “Typically, a customer calls up our business services center and requests new service, and during that time there is a series of questions about their operation and their business, as we try to determine how we can best help the costumer decide what rate they should be on,” explained Hammersmith.
 

In fact, Hammersmith is the guy who noticed Finish Design was paying more than it should.  He was responding to a call from Carol after a loss of service in the September, 2008 wind storm, when he noticed the company was on a high load factor.  “The high load factor is typically for companies that operate 24-7,” explained Hammersmith.  It is that rate designation that had the company paying way too much for electric.  So they changed it to a low-load factor and the bill was immediately cut.
 

Snook says the company never worked 3 shifts.  “It came down $3,000 a month once Duke changed it,” insisted Snook, but Hammersmith doesn’t see it that way.  ”Again, I’m very sympathetic to Carol and her situation, but someone from her, either her or someone from her company selected that rate to be on.”
 

Snook says that’s not true.  She suspects her company may have inherited the full-load rating from the business that previously owned that property.  But she has no proof, and neither does Duke.  “I don’t know whether we keep records back that far.  I mean, that’s quite a ways back,” said Hammersmith.
 

Snook says she called the Public Service commission and was told they only oversee residential accounts, not businesses.  If the utility makes a mistake that undercharges the customer, they can go back one full year and bill for energy used and not indicated on previous bills, but no further than one year..

 

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