Last week I received my monthly bill from Southern California Edison. The section labeled “Summary of your billing detail” showed a credit (but not a refund) of $250.85 for a “Billing correction” for the billing period Aug. 12, 2022, to Sept. 12, 2022. There was no further explanation of the amount in the invoice I received from SCE.
While I was delighted to receive a credit, I am simultaneously disturbed that there was an apparent billing error last year causing me to be overcharged by more than $250. You may recall that period had an extended period of record heat, which resulted in enormous electricity consumption.
The amount of my original bill was $729.09. After the credit, my bill was reduced to $478.23. That means in its original billing SCE overcharged me by more than 52%. From my perspective, this is not a small error. SCE had the use of the funds collected from an erroneous billing for six months, which is tantamount to an interest-free loan from consumers.
I presume other customers will receive similar credits.
There are several questions about the billing correction, which SCE needs to more fully explain.
Why didn’t SCE send me a refund instead of crediting my account for future charges? Perhaps because it maximizes the duration of my interest-free loan to them. Why was I overcharged by such an exorbitant amount? Are there similar overcharges for other periods? Did SCE’s billing system malfunction or instead were costs improperly billed to customers?
Why did it take five months to ascertain that there was a billing problem and credit the amounts to consumers? Why was no explanation provided in the invoice materials?
The timing of the refund seems coincidental because it comes at a time when consumers are reeling from unbelievably high bills from the Southern California Gas Co.
It is time for the Public Utilities Commission to investigate the billing practices of all utilities to assure the public that consumers are being billed properly. We live in an age where resources are either becoming increasingly scarce or the supply chain is disrupted. The inevitable result is that the cost of electricity, gas and water are going to increase, perhaps making it easier to manipulate the price without getting caught. Price increases resulting from supply disruption are understandable. Market manipulation for profit is unacceptable. Crediting consumers months after the fact for prior overbilling without an explanation of what happened inevitably leads consumers to question whether they are being treated fairly.
Jim de Bree