May 15th, 2010
03:31 AM ET

Texas family hit with $8,000 electric bill

Talk about "sticker shock."

"When I saw it, I thought it was mistake," said Sandra Rubio upon receiving a whopping $8,000 energy bill. A few days later, she received a letter from CPS Energy telling her a clerical error had caused her to be underbilled for nearly five years.

The utility, owned by the city of San Antonio, Texas, apologized but said the mother of three would have to pay the bill in its entirety.

"It's gonna be real hard," said Rubio in an interview with CNN Radio. "My boyfriend is the only one in the home who works. There are days when it's slow and he doesn't work at all. I have to pay it back no matter what and I feel cheated."

The problem began when a new meter was installed at the Rubio home in 2005, according to Theresa Brown Cortez, a spokeswoman for CPS Energy. An office employee incorrectly entered a number, causing a multiplier to register as "0" instead of "1," she said.

Rubio was not billed for any electric service even though the meter itself was properly tracking the usage.

CPS Energy supplies both natural gas and electricity to the home, Cortez said, and the utilities are billed together. A bar graph on the bill shows how much of the amount owed is for gas and how much is for electricity.

Rubio was billed for gas consumption, as well as base charges for having gas and electric service, she said. However, she wasn't billed at all for electric consumption.

"The customer on their bill could have seen electric service was given to their home, however they had no consumption," Cortez said.

But Rubio said she saw nothing unusual on her statements stuck out to her.

"We don't know how to calculate those numbers and what those numbers mean," she said. "You trust that whatever they send you, whatever that amount is, that's your bill."

Rubio said CPS told her that for the next seven years she will have to pay $98 a month on top of her regular monthly bill to pay off the debt, She worries that unforeseen circumstances could make this payment plan very difficult on her.

"It's already hard trying to pay three or four hundred dollars a month. What if one month I can't pay my full amount? I'm worried they're going to turn my lights off," she said.

Rubio plans on seeking some form of assistance to help her pay her debt, but she isn't optimistic.

"I know that anywhere I go they're going to look at it and say it's too much," she said. "I don't even know what I'm going to do. I'm just going to try and see what happens."

"We regret that we have human error in this situation," said Cortez. "We're going to do everything we can to work with this family to make this as manageable as possible to get this bill paid."

Company policy calls for the utility to bring in all money owed for services rendered, Cortez said. The company's sales revenues support the city budget, she said.


Filed under: U.S.
soundoff (549 Responses)
  1. Utility analyst

    Oh yea and by the way, this is a public utility, not a corporation. When they have losses like this, the PUC allows them to raise everyone electric rates to make up for it. Are you willing to pay higher electric fees because others cant read their bill?

    May 19, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. PEOPLE THESE DAYS

    THE PEOPLE WHO THINK THE FAMLY IS AT FAULT ARE MORONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT BEFORE YOU WRITE YOUR IDIOT COMMENTS

    May 20, 2010 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Wes

    Oh man, reading some of these comments is pure gold. People saying "Why is she whining?! blah blah, her fault blah blah." There is blame on both parts, that is a fact. At least this lady said they are going to pay it back even though it will be difficult for them. I am sure most of you would take this to court and try and blame 100% of this on the electric company and on top of that, ask for more money for something idiotic like pain and suffering.
    Some of you need to use your brains once in a while.

    May 22, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jule

    I live in an area of Texas where electricity has not been deregulated. There is only ONE electric provider. Period. My electric bill jumped from $380 one month to $3000 the next month. The elec. co. had discovered unpaid final bill in their records from a business location I had rented 3 years previously. I established new residential service a month before the business location service was cancelled. The elec. co. sent the final bill for the business to the wrong address. 3 years later they discover their error, tack it on to my monthly residential bill and impose a $1600 deposit on the bill as well. When I protested, they gave me the option of paying off the old bill and the new deposit in 4 installments. That meant $250/mo in addition to my regular bill. Couldn't do it. Service disconnected. Have now been nearly 3 years w/o elec. service. Can't afford to move. Have used generator for power for nearly 3 years. Law says they can't disconnect residential service for an unpaid business account. But they did. They can do whatever they want. Husband disabled. Had doctor write utility co. and specify husband uses breathing machine 4 times daily that requires electricity. Electric company wrote back, "Sorry about your illness, hope you get better soon."

    June 9, 2010 at 6:04 am | Report abuse |
  5. B-Dog

    Ok here is the final word on this..... The family is not at fault, the electric company should eat those charges :)

    September 12, 2010 at 3:10 am | Report abuse |
  6. news.blogs.cnn.com

    Texas family hit with 8000 electric bill.. Outstanding :)

    April 18, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. brian

    I WILL HAVE 98 DOLLARS FOR HER.
    YOU SHOULD GIVE HER MY EMAIL....

    May 19, 2011 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
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