GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Positive progress tied to a 13 Help Team story we brought you last month, amid yet another batch of complaints regarding the sky high bills many of our viewers said they’ve received from Consumers Energy.
Since early this year, we’ve had dozens call and message us after receiving invoices from the utility company, shocked to learn they owed hundreds or thousands of dollars more than usual.
Nicole Curtis’ total amount due got up to around $1,600. She’s a mom and a caregiver for her husband, who’s a permanently disabled US Army veteran. It’s not an expense she could afford to pay.
We published her story at the end of July and reached out to a Consumers contact ahead of publication.
We sent our photojournalist, Dan Allen, out to follow up with Nicole about a week later and this is what she told him:
“Incredibly thankful for Charlie coming out and bringing it to their attention and you for coming out and doing a follow up, we just really appreciate it,” Curtis said. “I know, there's so many others that are struggling. And if hearing our story helps a little bit and helps them figure out what to do on their end, I mean, that's the whole thing.”
The billing dispute was patched up, more than $1,000 was removed from her account balance and all of Nicole’s concerns received the attention they deserved.
Melissa Rogers said she experienced were the flip side of the coin: no bills at all for months.
Melissa called Consumers customer service after several months had come and gone and her account still reflected a $0 balance to determine why.
“I was really irritated with the first agent I spoke to who kind of threw it on me, like it was my responsibility to inquire why I don't have a bill,” Rogers laughed, indicating that inquiry had been the reason for her call. “He also said that I could have easily just started making payments to a zero balance.”
Melissa said the next few representatives in the chain were more compassionate than the first yet, still, effectively got her nowhere. Her account still reflected a zero balance in May, June and July.
She later learned that because of a bad or atypical read, her account had been frozen.
Melissa said she was told that the total would likely be somewhere north of $1,000.
None of the customer service representatives with whom she spoke, Melissa said, could tell her why, how much or when her bills would start showing up again.
“The problem is with Consumers,” she related. “It's not like you can say, I'm not happy with your service, I'm going somewhere else. This whole situation, Consumers is not losing any customers. We have no place to go. So, that's what's really frustrating. It does kind of feel like they can do whatever they want.”
Coincidentally, Melissa’s prodigal utility bill came out several days after we emailed the utility seeking clarity. It was $1,379.
She didn’t have to pay a dollar because we stepped in and got it taken care of.
Consumers Energy has said it’s committed to making things right for its customers and that it was cooperating with state regulators asking questions regarding the utility’s recent billing practices.
The company’s August 4 deadline expired last week. The Michigan Public Service Commission, which ordered the probe, now has until September to respond.
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