Update: Philly Family With No Heat Says PGW Is Demanding $14K To Return Gas Meter

Image courtesy of MarkAClem

On Wednesday, we wrote about Consumerist reader Norma, whose family has been without gas service in Philadelphia — which means no heat — in their apartment for a few days. Since then, Norma says the local utility has demanded they pay $14,000 in order to get their meter returned and service turned back on.

Soon after Norma’s story was published, she wrote to say she was told the meter would be restored on Saturday. The family bundled up, and hunkered down with space heaters.

“We are going on 97 hours without heat, hot water or cooking gas,” Norma told Consumerist on Friday, calling it the “coldest day yet.”

Writing just a few hours later, Norma said PGW has claimed they owe $14,000 for gas that PGW says was not recorded by the meter. She had no idea they were using any gas outside of the $100 worth they paid for every month, writing that she’s “totally panicked.”

“It must be from before we lived here,” she writes, adding that they moved in 13 years ago. “I swear on everything we never touched it.”

While a PGW spokesperson declined to comment on any specific amounts or figures related to the family’s account, citing privacy provisions, he did assert that the meter had indeed been tampered with, which was why it was leaking gas and had to be removed, per safety protocols.

“We know that the operation of the meter was interfered with, and we know that it was causing an unsafe situation,” he told Consumerist. “We’ve subsequently confirmed that an amount of previously unaccounted for gas was used at the property, but was not paid for. We were also able to calculate what that amount of unaccounted for gas is.”

Typically, this means billing the customer of record for that unaccounted for gas, the spokesperson explained, adding that a customer is only responsible for unaccounted gas at their property while the account was in their name. That would be 13 years for Norma’s family.

“However it happened, the gas was used at the property by the account holder, and so the cost of it must be recouped from the account holder – the beneficiary of the natural gas that was used,” PGW’s spokesperson told Consumerist. “For PGW, as a municipal utility, there is no other source of payment: the natural gas used must be paid for by those who use it, or by those who own the properties that benefit from it. Otherwise the cost is borne by every other ratepayer in the city.”

So even if Norma’s family had no idea that the meter had been tampered with, as she maintains, that gas was still technically being used while they were paying for what the meter did record, which comes down to about $100 per month as part of the Budget Billing program. With that option, PGW looks at historical usage and then pro-rates your annual gas costs more evenly across the full 12 months.

PGW’s spokesperson said he would be looking into what next steps are available to the family.

For now, Norma says at least the kids will be warm — because they won’t be in the home. She and her husband are “stuck,” however.

“We are sending our kids with relatives this weekend. But Monday they have to come back,” Norma tells Consumerist. “We are looking at temperatures around 18 degrees this weekend and snow… I don’t know what to do.”

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