Disabled veteran disputes bill increase, smart meter reading
(2/17/17) - A disabled veteran is locked in a dispute over his utility bill - and fears he could ultimately lose his house. We've been hearing people talk about fluctuations in their bills since smart meters have been installed.
Edward Vernier and his wife, Tammy, say their energy bills aren't t adding up.
"Me being a hundred percent disabled vet, living on a fixed income, they're just starving us to death. There's no way we could be using that much energy," he said.
He says their bill is on average $270.00. On a budget plan, they pay about $150.00 a month, but now he says their bill is around $470.00.
Energy Insights provided by the company show their usage to be highest from 12-am to 12-noon when they are sleep or not using appliances. Even more to the point -- the couple spends 3 weeks out of the month away from their Grand Blanc Township home during camping season.
A technician visited the house Tuesday to, and said the couple is being energy efficient. The only answer Edward has for the increase is the installation of a smart meter. He says that was told to him by a Consumers Energy employee.
"She says that the newer meters are catching up from appliances that weren't recording properly."
Consumers Energy says Edward's meter is showing an accurate reading. They say Edward has been enrolled in a shutoff protection plan for over a year, and his bill increased in November to address a past-due balance. He owes a few thousand dollars, and now this vet is running out of options. He's already taken out a VA loan to help with the mortgage.
"It's going to drive us out of our house, you know, with the amount of money that we're spending. That's killing us on the mortgage payment," he said.
Edward says the technician told him he wasn't the only one with a smart meter who has experienced an increase in usage and cost, but he was told the increase he's experienced is the highest.
The company says Edward may qualify for the CARE program which is supposed to help customers with past due bills. They reached out to him after we called, but he hasn't officially been enrolled, yet.