NJ man overpaid $30,000 — Is your electric meter ripping you off?
When you look at your electric bill — if you even do — do you know what you're reading, or is it all just a bunch of gibberish?
Readers and listeners have been voicing their concerns since New Jersey 101.5 morning-drive host Bill Spadea spoke with a Bedminster man who had been overcharged for electricity for more than two decades, apparently paying the bill for a family of four living next door.
In total, John Regina said, he paid more than $30,000 too much over 24 years. The involved utility, Jersey Central Power & Light, agreed to award him a credit north of $6,000, following a tariff that makes the utility responsibility only for adjustments that date back six years or less.
"I think most of us don't know a lot about what energy costs or how much we should be using in an average home," said Dena Mottola, associate director of New Jersey Citizen Action.
Ron Morano, a spokesman for JCP&L, said customers can submit a written request for an investigation if they believe there is an issue with a mixed meter.
PSE&G customers who suspect billing errors may schedule a meter check by calling customer service or visiting their account online, a utility spokesperson said.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR BILL
But getting to that point may require some homework, Mottola said. A property owner couldn't tell they're being overcharged consistently unless they know the usage noted on their bill is more than the actual amount of juice they're pulling from the grid.
You can come up with a ballpark amount of usage, Mottola said, through the power of the internet — look up the energy needed for your lights and appliances, and take into account how long you use them on a typical day.
"You can come up with a pretty decent estimate to kind of spot-check whether you're being overcharged or not," Mottola said. "It's not an easy task ... it'd be a project, for sure."
Morano, with JCP&L, said when a meter reading is not consistent with a customer's typical use or history, the meter reader gets an alert to read the meter again.
In Regina's case, the meter readings were consistent. They were just assigned to the wrong homeowner.
According to a report released Aug. 20 by SmartAsset, the average residential monthly electric bill was $114.09 nationwide in 2014.