July 23, 2024

The Nerve Archive

Where Government Gets Exposed

Readers Share Misadventures with Public Utilities


‘I don’t think I’ll contact them again’

Over the last few weeks we’ve received several emails about public utilities. The South Carolina Policy Council, The Nerve’s parent organization, has criticized the assumption that utilities must be owned and operated and/or heavily regulated by the state. Reading these emails, we’re warming to the idea.

Here’s a funny thing about one of our utility bills. In July, our water bill was $105. I thought it was pretty high, but we have a big family, so who knows. The next month it was $37. The next month, September, it was $119.

Now as far as I’m aware, we didn’t vary our water usage in any significant way. We didn’t leave town, we didn’t suddenly start using more water or less water. I’ve asked the city to verify these amounts, and they do.

I’m starting to think the city just guesses at how much water we’re using. In any case, I have no confidence that I’m being charged rational numbers.

But hey, it’s city government, right?

And another:

I got my electric bill a few months ago, and it was astronomical. I don’t know how I’m using more than $326 in electricity for a small two-bedroom apartment – my bill usually runs like $200, tops. That’s during the hottest months. This was back in March.

But that’s what they said I owe. So before I paid it, I sent a letter asking that someone explain how they came up with that figure. I never heard anything back. I called several times and they said they’d schedule me for some kind of verification, but I never heard anything more.

I went ahead and paid the full amount, obviously – because I didn’t want them to turn off my electricity. But five months later (August) I finally got a form letter saying: “The amount you were billed for the month of March ($326.51) was the correct amount. Please know that we exist to serve you, and if we can assist further, please contact us.”

I don’t think I’ll contact them again.

And finally:

A few months ago, the [name of the public utility withheld] cut off our power. Just cut if off. Come to find out, our bill was past due by FOUR DAYS. Apparently our address got lumped in with some others – that’s what they said. When I called about it, the guy I talked to apologized many times. But it took a full day to turn it back on again. They did tell me (in a letter) that they would waive the fee for having my power cut on again. I just said thanks. But good grief.

If you have a story about government “services” gone awry, send it to us at news@thenerve.org.

We need your help to continue our mission of holding government officials accountable! As part of the South Carolina Policy Council, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization, we rely on donations to operate. Please consider giving today so we can keep bringing accountability to government. It’s your power, and it’s time to take it back!
The Nerve