The Thing About A $1.3 Million Electric Bill Is There’s No Way You’ll Have To Pay It

Unless you have a couple hundred air conditioners running full blast in hundreds of houses where the lights never go off, you will never owe $1.3 million on your electric bill. Doesn’t mean you can’t have the fun of receiving such a bill, however, as one Texas woman found out recently.

Kristin opened up her bill from Potentia Energy and figured there might be a slight uptick, this being a warmer time of year and all, but wasn’t quite prepared for the $1,381,783.92 facing her.

“I opened it. I read it. Then just went, ‘Oh, my gosh. That’s a lot of money,'” she told the Abilene Reporter News.

She doesn’t provide electricity to the whole neighborhood, and her last bill was about $100, so Kristin rightly figured it was a mistake. She took a picture of the bill and then called the electric company. They had someone on the line to help her from billing within four minutes, apologizing profusely.

“It was either computer error or human error, they said. They said they would look into it, and send me a new bill right away,” she said.

Usually in her area, the charge for a kilowatt-hour is around 8.2 to 12.1 cents. According to Kristin’s bill, that charge was around $1,000 per kwh. The company told her she wouldn’t have to pay the amount or the late fee if the issue wasn’t resolved by the due date.

Turns out the huge bill had been flagged by internal auditors, says Potentia Energy, and was flagged to be held before it was mistakenly sent out to a third-party billing vendor.

“I’ve been pretty calm about it,” she said. “I mean, I’ve seen medical bills higher than that. I’m just glad I opened the bill and not my father, who has a heart condition.”

Previously in crazy bills: Family Surprised To See They’d Managed To Rack Up $100K Electricity Bill; Man Claims His $800 Water Bill Is An Error Since He Hasn’t Used 80,000 Gallons Of Water In The Last Month

*Thanks for the tip, Rowell!

Abilene woman zapped with $1M-plus electric bill [Abilene Reporter News]


Edit Your Comment

  1. TheOnlyBob says:

    Someone at the power company was looking for some Restoration Hardware furniture. This lady drew the short straw.

  2. apasserby says:

    Betcha they’ll hit her with a late fee will be once she gets the correct bill.

    • Straspey says:

      “The company told her she wouldn’t have to pay the amount or the late fee if the issue wasn’t resolved by the due date.”

      You’re the current leader in the RTFA Weekend Competition – but it’s still early.

      • apasserby says:

        Damn, I shouldn’t post when I’m half asleep.

        • [censored] says:

          Don’t be so quick to apologize, just because they said it doesn’t mean it cant happen.

          • SabreDC says:

            Exactly. “Turns out the huge bill had been flagged by internal auditors, says Potentia Energy, and was flagged to be held before it was mistakenly sent out to a third-party billing vendor.”

            Their auditors also said to hold onto the bill before sending it to the billing vendor. That didn’t happen either. What’s to stop the billing vendor from adding a late fee despite Potentia’s request?

      • scoutermac says:

        Just because they said they would not charge the late fee does not mean they will not. I’ve run into this problem with other bills in the past.

        • HomerSimpson says:

          I wouldn’t consider this resolved until she gets next month’s bill that makes no mention of the error.

          “Oh yeah we’ll take care of it” don’t mean much.

      • chiieddy says:

        Even so, it’s not too difficult to figure out what to send. Use the higher kwH rate of $.121 and divide the incorrect bill total by 1000 to figure out kwH used and then times that by $.121 and you get $167.20. Pay that and she might overpay by $13.71 which would be credited to her next bill.

    • soj4life says:

      Do you even read the article?

  3. DemosCat says:

    “I’ve seen medical bills higher than that.”

    Now THAT is scary.

    • galm666 says:

      Her father has a heart condition…but I wonder how much of say, $1million in medical treatments is actually for the treatments and not some sort of derivative cost of other people not taking care of themselves, etc.

      That whole over-utilization of major healthcare running up the costs vs. avoiding it with preventive healthcare concept, you know?

      • Jules Noctambule says:

        I have a heart condition, too. It’s degenerative, and I was born with it. I can’t get insurance, and I can’t afford the recommended preventative care, like routine EKGs. So nice to know that there are people out there ready to blame me for all those things!

  4. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Regardless of what the elec company does to resolve it, I eventually see this going to a collections agency. Will be looking forward to the Consumerist story at that time.

    • damicatz says:

      Collection agencies don’t collect on behalf of a company, they buy the debt from that company at a discount rate (e.g we will pay you $500 for this $1000 debt) and then go after the difference from the debtor.

      Collection agencies are only interested in debts they think they can collect on; no sane collection agency would ever buy a $1.3 million dollar debt on an (ostensibly) middle-class homeowner because there would be absolutely no way to collect on it (you can’t get blood from a turnip) and hence they wouldn’t make any money. They’d essentially be throwing away hundreds of thousands of dollars.

      • Lyn Torden says:

        Not all collection agencies buy debts. The traditional role of debt collection agencies was where the original creditor kept the account and hired the collector to collect for them. That still commonly takes place. But more and more creditors do like to just get rid of the bad accounts and sell them, and this has led to the rise of the lowlife scumbag collectors who are usually the ones to pay the most pennies on the dollar. But I sure would have liked for one of them to take a bite on this account.

    • Torgonius wants an edit button says:

      And somehow, someway, Bank of America will become involved and foreclose on her house.

  5. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    At the very least, it’s so high it’s obviously a mistake.

    It would be a lot tougher to deal with an incorrect $1,300 or even $13,000 bill.

  6. Here to ruin your groove says:

    “”I’ve been pretty calm about it,” she said. “I mean, I’ve seen medical bills higher than that. I’m just glad I opened the bill and not my father, who has a heart condition.””

    You have foiled the big evil electric company’s dastardly plan.

  7. George4478 says:

    She’s in the clear. It’s the guy that gets a bill for $500, instead of his normal $100, that gets screwed.

  8. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    I used Potentia last year. I never had a billing problem and when my credit card expired they were easy to deal with. Although when it came time to renew my contract Amigo was a full penny per kwh cheaper, so we’ll see how it goes this year.

  9. RandomMutterings says:

    It would be interesting to see what Consumerist readers pay for electricity. I have an investment in a rental house on an island where the electrical cost is approximately 80 cents per kilowatt-hour. Turning on the AC at that house means paying close to $3/hour. It adds up pretty fast . . .

    • rookie says:

      9.414 cents per kwh. United Cooperative Services in north Texas, south of the DFW metroplex.

    • FLConsumer says:

      Approx $0.085/kWh (FPL) -$0.12/kWh (Tampa Electric) in a few different areas of Florida.

      $0.80/kWh for electricity? Something’s majorly wrong there. It doesn’t even cost me that much to run my small generator. Only costs me ~$0.24/kWh (including generator wear & tear, oil, etc.) to run my house on generator (assuming running aircon, etc.).

    • benson304 says:

      Is the $0.80/kwh inclusive of transmission charges? I imagine they might be higher on an island – but that’s really expensive.

    • nybiker says:

      Since you asked, I have Con Edison Solutions and they are Con Edison’s ESCO. Con Edison does the delivery for which you pay not only an account fee every month, but also by the kwh. Don’t forget all the fees, surchages, and taxes that get tacked on as well.
      My Current 1 year contract with Con Edison Solutions has me paying 11.2 cents per kwh for the supply. When I started with them in 2012, it was 10.2 cents. I received a letter earlier this month for the renewal and it’s down to 10.02 per kwh.
      My most recent bill for the 30 days was for 540 kWh.
      Here’s the supply piece:
      Your electricity supply charges
      30 day billing period from Apr 30, 2012 to May 30, 2012
      kWh used 540
      Customer charge $0.00
      Supply cost @11.2000¢ per kWh $60.48
      Sales tax @4.5000% $2.72
      Total electricity supply charges $63.20

      Your delivery charges
      Basic service charge $15.76
      Charge for basic system infrastructure and customer-related services,
      including customer accounting, meter reading and meter

      Delivery 540 kWh @11.0685¢/kWh $59.77
      Charge for maintaining the system through which Con Edison
      delivers electricity to you.

      SBC/RPS charges @0.4907¢/kWh $2.65
      The System Benefits Charge/Renewable Portfolio Standard charges
      fund New York State renewable energy, environmental and other
      related public policy programs.

      Temporary NY State Surcharge @0.4667¢/kWh $2.52
      Covers new fees imposed by the state.

      GRT & other tax surcharges $3.99
      Taxes on Con Edison gross receipts from sales of utility services and
      other tax surcharges.

      Sales tax @4.5000% $3.81
      Tax collected on behalf of New York City.
      Total delivery charges $88.50

      Con Edison electric charges $88.50

      Grand total: $151.70

      For what it’s worth, I read my own meter every month and submit it to them online, so there’s no meter reader coming to my house to do it.

  10. Straspey says:

    Tune in next week for —

    “Family lives in house since 1987 without setting up an account with the power company. Receives bill for $1,381,783.92. Power company says they will have to pay every penny.”

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      Potentia is a reseller, there is a separate delivery provider, and Potentia couldn’t get involved without an account. The Texas competitive electric market is complicated, but I get power for 7.4c/kwh + ~ $4/mo in miscellaneous, so I’m not complaining.

  11. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    Waiting for the SWAT team to raid her house for the ‘grow’ operation she must have started. The report may be automatically sent to law enforcement as suspicious activity.

  12. Sully111 says:

    Good thing she did not have automatic Bill payment. That would cause one big overdraft on my account. It would stink to then have to deal with the bank and try to get the electric company to pay the overdraft fee.

    • Janus, Should I laugh or cry? says:

      Because of these types of errors (albeit, not this huge) I never, ever allow any company to pull money out of my account. Instead, I push payments out.

  13. Jane_Gage says:

    “Either human or computer error.” The cyborgs get away with it again.

  14. yossi says:

    I never understood why these billing error stories make it as stories. It would be one thing if the electric company actually insisted she used $1.3 million worth of electricity, but thats not the case, a computer glitch caused a wrong number to print on a bill, which the rectified right away. Is that really a story?

    Can we write a story about how UPS delivered a box to me upside down? Or lets talk about the time I ordered whole wheat bread,but got white instead! Did I mention the time I asked FIOS for 15/5 speed, but got 25/10 instead? Outrageous I tell you!

  15. dorianh49 says:

    Yeah, good thing she didn’t open her father!

  16. noahproblem1 says:

    Right about now there are some disgraced Enron executives thinking “why didn’t we think of this – charging $1.3 million per customer might have kept us afloat…”

  17. ret3 says:

    Years ago, I got a $400,000,000+ (that’s right, over $400 million!) water bill from the property management company running the apartment complex I was living in. I recognized the amount immediately, though; it was my Social Security number. Apparently, they had someone keying in the dollar amounts on the bills, who got the fields mixed up.

  18. FLConsumer says:

    The largest monthly power bill I think I’ve ever seen was about $45K. BIG facility. Still a shock when you see it for the first time.

    As for my own homes, they vary widely by construction. Not entirely surprising, my largest home (2100sqft) has the lowest power bills due to it being all solid-pour concrete. Averages $35-45/mo. My most expensive is a wood-frame condo (1,000 sqft), runs approx $80/mo.

  19. ferd says:

    So what if you have automatic payments?

    • Actionable Mango says:

      If you are a millionaire, the bank might pay it. But if you are a typical Joe I am 100% sure the bank won’t allow an overdraft that large.

  20. Invader Zim says:

    Its the delivery fees

  21. shthar says:

    I’ll put it on my visa, I get double points when i pat bills online!