Meter mix-up creates $1K 'surprise' electric bill for East Texas woman

Meter mix-up creates $1K 'surprise' electric bill for East Texas woman
Sharon Matthews received a surprise bill after a 19 month meter mix-up. (Source: KLTV staff)
Sharon Matthews received a surprise bill after a 19 month meter mix-up. (Source: KLTV staff)
Melissa Reeves, Office Services Manager for Upshur Rural Electric. (Source: KLTV staff)
Melissa Reeves, Office Services Manager for Upshur Rural Electric. (Source: KLTV staff)

UPSHUR COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - Sharon Matthews described her reaction to a thousand dollar electric bill as shock and disbelief.

Matthews said after paying her electric bill in full each month this year, she received a letter this week saying she owes $1,014 for December due to an underpayment.

Her electric company, Upshur Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation (Upshur Rural), said for 19 months, she has been paying for her neighbor's usage instead of her own.

"The serviceman inadvertently put the wrong meter on the paperwork when he was out there," said Upshur Rural's Officer Services Manager, Melissa Reeves. "When we realized what had taken place, we refunded the member that had paid too much, and the member that ended up paying too little, we billed for the last six months of usage."

"I couldn't [pay] it, especially right here at Christmas," Matthews said.

Reeves said though the underpayment was a paperwork error on Upshur Rural's end, the billing drop should have been noticeable.

Matthews said for her, the lower bill didn't raise any red flags.

"We had all the rain, our central air went out, we had nothing but the window units, we were getting home late," said Matthews. "I didn't think anything about our electricity going down because of it."

Reeves said these "retroactive" bills are rare and Upshur Rural strives to always do accurate meter reading.

It's often hard to detect when there is a problem, Reeves said.

"There are going to be seasonal fluctuations in billing, but if it's something that seems out of the ordinary, we would ask the customer to contact us," Reeves said.  "One thing that's always helpful is checking the meter number against the bill."

Recognizing that this large bill would be a burden on a customer, Upshur Rural is now offering give her up to 24 months to repay the amount.

"That would help a lot, if I owe it, I don't mind paying it," Matthews said, "But I don't feel I owe it because in the letter [Upshur Rural] says it was their fault."

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