GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Dozens of viewers have come to the 13 HELP TEAM with concerns about what they’re seeing on their utility bills since our first report detailing the underlying cause of the increases was published earlier this month.
As we previously reported, Consumers Energy says spiking costs on some bills are tied to its transition to a modern meter system, adopting the newer 5G technology instead of the 3G meters the utility company used in past years.
In response to an inquiry submitted by 13 ON YOUR SIDE, Consumers indicated some 90,000 meters had yet to be replaced as of last week, some of whom have complained of inconsistent charges.
Misty Kanar is a single mom who lives with her kids on the outskirts of Muskegon.
“Our Consumers bill is up and down constantly,” Kanar said. “I know I'm getting overcharged for it.”
Consumers provided clarity last week, noting the inconsistencies stemmed from its use of estimates—based upon past usage data—in certain cases instead of remotely or physically assessing the meters themselves.
This led to an extra expense once, even though the customer’s estimated usage had actually fallen short.
“How do they know that I'm going to use that much?” Kanar questioned. “It's almost double what it was last month.”
A recent breakdown of Kanar’s account showed even after an approximately $700 payment, her balance topped $1,000.
Her meter, one of the older, 3G devices, displayed a series of error messages when 13 ON YOUR SIDE inspected it last week.
“I'm trying to pay all my bills, trying to keep food on the table,” she explained. “It's hard. It's a struggle… the electricity bill is not making it any easier for me.”
In response to another inquiry submitted early Tuesday, Consumers said it was working directly with Kanar in an effort to address her concerns.
It remained unclear at the time of publication what a solution might entail.
If a customer suspects they may be affected or has noticed inexplicable discrepancies in invoices or account statements, Consumers advised contacting its customer service department via telephone at 1(800) 477-5050.
It also provided an email address customers can utilize to send photos of their actual meter readings: ReportMyRead@cmsenergy.com.
In a statement sent to 13 OYS via email last week, the utility explained further:
"We strive to have estimated bills match actual energy use. Variables such as weather can affect current use compared to past use, and we understand any frustration as bill amounts can change. We encourage customers to call us if they have questions, need assistance, or need to set up a payment arrangement that works for them.
"Customers who are receiving estimated bills will have that noted on their bill. If their meter is displaying a digital read, they can send a photo of it to ReportMyRead@cmsenergy.com and we will update your bill. We understand this can be an inconvenience and appreciate our customers' patience as we work as quickly as possible to upgrade their meters."
For more information, Consumers Energy has posted a blog about how bills are estimated: Hey, Consumers Energy! Why was my bill estimated last month? | Force4Michigan
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