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N4T Investigators: Meter mess - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Meter mess

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Tucson – “I couldn't believe it, and it was like, how could it be that high?"

That was Brian Grundhoefer's reaction upon seeing his June bill from Tucson Electric Power, for $276.42. The average bill for his small foothills home is about $75.  So he says he turned up the thermostat from 78 to 80 degrees. Then the July bill came, for $372.75, almost $100 higher than the previous month. Yes, both months were very hot, but Grundhoefer says he did not use nearly that much more electricity.

Grundhoefer said, “There's no way I can be sure, not being an electrician. You know? But I didn't change my lifestyle, whatsoever.”

Grundhoefer told TEP he thinks the meter malfunctioned and wanted them to come out and test it.  TEP's usually policy is if they come out to test a meter and find it's broken, there's no charge. But if the meter's working, the customer has to pay $186 for the test. 

The News 4 Tucson Investigators met with TEP spokesman Joe Barrios. We said, ”So the customer is really just taking a gamble of paying that money depending on what your guys find, right?  They don't know in advance if they're going to find something wrong or not.” 

Barrios said, “Well, certainly no, but that's why it's important for customers to talk to us about their energy usage.”

Grundhoefer, a 70 year-old widower living on a fixed income, declined to pay for the meter test, and paid his high bills for June and July.

We said to Barrios, “You have to admit that this is a huge disparity, right? From an average of 75 dollars a month to 375?” Barrios said, “Well, I would say that it's certainly worth a look by our employees.”

Barrios says it's unlikely that Grundhoefer's digital meter malfunctioned. However, soon after we told him about the high bills, a new meter was installed for Grundhoefer's house, free of charge.

Barrios said, “We will reach out to this customer to speak with him directly, as we do with many of our customers who have similar concerns.There's always circumstances that we need to consider, and we're happy to do that.”

TEP inspected Grundhoefer's two year-old meter today after removing it and found  there were gaps in reporting data. However, TEP says that would not affect usage. The company says it will waive the meter test fee for Grundhoefer, which it occasionally does, on a case-by-case basis.  

A TEP rep will visit Grundhoefer's home on Wednesday to do an energy audit, to discuss specifics and why his last two bills were so high. The company says if you think your bill is too high, you should call them to discuss your usage.

If you have a story you'd like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520- 955-4444. 

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