Hundreds of TEP customers overcharged

KOLD News 10-10:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 10:34 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - They were promised cheaper bills if they shifted their use of electricity to off-peak hours.

But hundreds of Tucson Electric Power customers have been overcharged, some going back to March.

More than 1,600 residential and commercial customers are affected by the billing error. A Tucson man, known for conserving energy says it cost him an extra $60 on his last bill. He wants to prevent it from happening to others.

“The peak demand for me is between 3-7pm. So, my air conditioners are off, my water heater is off, my pool pump is off,” said TEP customer Ben Wichers. “Everything is off between 3-7 p.m., and at 7 p.m. when the demand window ends everything comes back on. So, there’s a huge peak at 7 p.m. so then I got to thinking something is up here.”

Wichers says between July 26 and August 10 he was charged for electricity using an incorrect rate.

Using a device called Eyedro, he tracks his usage in real time.

“So, I could look at my iPad and tell you how many kilowatts I’m using in my house at this very minute,” said Wichers.

Wichers compared his data to what’s available on TEP’s website. It didn’t add up he says.

“You can see that I have all these low demand rates here for that period of time. It just couldn’t possibly be right,” said Wichers.

“Hopefully TEP will step up to the plate and recognize that they might have done this with several other people in that demand program,” said Bonnie Wichers.

She says after multiple calls to customer service, TEP decided to replace their meter. But the meter wasn’t the issue.

So, what is it?

Joseph Barrios with TEP says a programming error is to blame, impacting customers on the time of use pricing plan, which more than 32,000 people are signed up for.

“The programming error caused some usage that should have been billed with off-peak rates which are lower to be calculated using on-peak rates which are higher,” said Barrios.

Barrios said 1,600 residential and 65 commercial customers were affected by the billing error.

“Some customers were overcharged, and some customers were undercharged,” said Barrios.

The issue is now fixed. Customers will receive a credit on their upcoming bill. Barrios says most refunds will be around $5.

But Ben Wichers says his refund was about $60, plus $240 for the cost of the meter which didn’t need replacement.

“It’s not the money, it isn’t about the money on this thing,” said Bonnie Wichers. “It’s just about how it impacts other people.”

The Wichers are happy they pursued the issue and invested in their own meter system which helped catch TEP’s billing error.

“I just do it for fun more than anything. It’s kind of a challenge for me and keeps my techie brain going,” said Wichers.

TEP is also calling and emailing affected customers about the issue. For more information about the time of use pricing plan click here.