Utility bills may be affected by recent storms


July 12, 2012

MASON COUNTY — According to a recent release from the Public Service Commission (PSC) of West Virginia, local customers may see some odd things on their next round of utility bills.

Concerning electric bills, it was reported that under normal circumstances, residential customers receive an electric bill that reflects their actual usage one month and an estimated bill based on last year’s usage for the same time period.

In their efforts to restore service quickly as possible following the June 29 storm, Appalachian Power Monongahela Power, Potomac Edison, and Wheeling Power have all reported employees were taken off their regular duties, such as reading meters, to assist restoration crews in the field. As a result, more customers than normal will receive “estimated” rather than “actual bills” in the next billing cycle.

It was also reported the estimated bills will not take into account that a customer may not have had utility service for a portion of the month for which the bill is estimated. However, the PSC wants to assure customers that the bills will be accurate or “trued up” as of their next electric bill based on an actual reading. In other words, after paying an estimated bill and the next bill based on actual usage, a customer will have paid no more than what was used.

Concerning water bills following the storm, it was reported that West Virginia American Water stated it was not necessary to take meter readers off their regular duties to assist with restoration activities, therefore they do not anticipate an increase in the number of customers receiving estimated bills this month. Those customers who experienced service disruptions and were without water should, all other things being equal, expect to see slightly lower bill due to decrease usage.

Concerning telephone bills, Commission Rules require telephone companies to pro-rate bills when service is interrupted for specified periods of time (according to the company’s tariff) due to any cause other than the negligence or willful act of the customer. It was also stated that telephone customers who were without service should contact their phone company to request a bill adjustment.

Concerning gas bills, it was reported that both Dominion Hope and Mountaineer Gas Company stated there will be minimal changes with upcoming bills as a result of recent storm events. But it is was stated in some cases where meters were inaccessible or there were safety concerns for employees, there is a possibility that up to three consecutive estimated bills in a row could be received by some customers.