PG&E admits to thousands of inaccurate utility bills

May 11, 2010

Consumer advocates are calling for a moratorium on the so-called SmartMeters after PG&E admitted Monday that as many as 23,000 customers statewide received inaccurate electricity bills. [Mercury News]

PG&E could not pinpoint how many of those customers were overcharged, or how many were undercharged, nor the total sum of the inaccuracies. However, utility officials admitted to mishandling their response to consumer complaints and pledged a complete overhaul of customer service efforts.

So far, 5.5 million SmartMeters have been installed throughout northern California at a rate of about 10,000 a day. Hundreds of customers have already complained that the new digital meters about skyrocketing electric bills, fueling suspicions that the meters either malfunction or are used intentionally to overcharge.

For months, PG&E insisted there were no problems with the SmartMeters, instead blaming higher bills on increased air-conditioning during summer months. In a Monday press conference, PG&E reversed position and made public status updates on the SmartMeter program.

In April, for example, there were 43, 376 cases in which the SmartMeters were involved in some kind of problem, including the 23,000 meters that were installed improperly.

Mark Toney, executive director of the consumer advocacy group TURN, renewed his call for a moratorium on SmartMeters until all the issues are resolved.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Toney said. “We never get to the iceberg, but the tip just keeps getting bigger.”



  1. willie says:

    Are we gonna get a refund??????????????

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  2. pasowino says:

    It is interesting what the writer decides to emphasize in the article. They say that ~ 23,000 meters were billed with inaccurate meter reads. Now, that sounds like a lot. In my opinion it’s 23,000 too many, but if you really look at it, 23,000 out of 5,500,000 is 0.4%. According to a press release I read, PG&E says that roughly 3% of their existing meters today have occasional issues that cause billing errors.

    My point is that the media is scaring us all with these bogus headlines and with a closer look, it appears to me that the smart meters are an improvement over the existing system. Just another case of the media trying to manipulate the news to sell newspapers. I am beginning to think that the main stream media in this country is a joke. It is no better than the national enquirer. If you want real news, you should consider researching things for yourself or really read the details in the article and compare them with other sources and then do the math. Chances are, the flashy headline is a load of bull.

    (-5) 9 Total Votes - 2 up - 7 down
    • bobfromsanluis says:

      To which article do you reference, the entire article at the link, or the condensed version posted here? PG&E stated in the full article that “one customer is one too many” where it concerns having their metering system not registering accurately; and further reading of the full article, where the smart meters were installed as gas meters, in the cases of those that had inaccurate readings, half were under reporting usage, and half were over reporting usage. Does that sound like an improvement over the current system? The installation of the smart meters is just another corporate sweeping away at the labor force by eliminating the jobs of all of those meter readers who did their job and contributed to the economy with their paychecks. While I agree that a lot of today’s media is weak, those institutions that do still employ and utilize investigative reporters are providing a needed service to the citizens. As far as the headlines go, most reporters do not write the headline that gets published, it is usually done by a management team with an intention of making the article more controversial or “sexy”; that should not be a reason to dismiss the information contained in the article.

      (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
      • pasowino says:

        You make some good points. I am just getting at the fact that whole premise of the article is to emphasize the “thousands” of customers that received a bad PG&E bill, but a closer look at it, the number (as a percentage) of customers receiving bad bills due to a smart meter is actually lower than the traditional meters. So, if you ask me (which I know no one cares my opinion) the smart meters are an improvement over the existing system. Once PG&E works out all of the glitches, this seems like a great technology that will keep meter readers out of my yard and will allow me to look at how/when I use my energy and hopefully make changes to save a few bucks.

        So, the problem doesn’t lie with the smart meter, it lies with a poorly executed deployment of the technology.

        (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
        • bobfromsanluis says:

          “So, the problem doesn’t lie with the smart meter, it lies with a poorly executed deployment of the technology.” I think that is what PG&E wants everyone to think; how do we really KNOW that it is the execution that is the problem? And 23,000 is “thousands”; how can you argue that it is not? Sure, I agree that based on the sheer number of customers the actual number is a very small percentage, but it is still “thousands”. As far as your “opinion” that the smart meters are an improvement; are you comfortable with hundreds of employees losing their jobs? If you are a stock owner in PG&E you most likely are all for this move; if you like the idea that more people should be able to keep their jobs, you won’t like this move. And that is not even addressing Mr. Hodin’s suggestion that the EMF radiation can be potentially harmful; comment about that?

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  3. R.Hodin says:

    A smart meter is a wireless transmitter installed on your house without your permission. If you are sensitive to electromagnetic radiation, a smart meter is not something you will want on the wall of your home.

    (3) 5 Total Votes - 4 up - 1 down
    • BeenThereDoneThat says:

      Curious. Where do you get your information that they are wireless?? Everything I have read about them (numerous different sources in how they work) the information is sent back to a main hub view the same lines that connect to your house. The same way they are now starting to offer phone and internet over the same lines. Are you getting it confused with gas? The gas company still sends people out into the field and in some applications have meters that they can point from the street and pick up the information. With the smart meters ALL meter readers will go away, because the information will be able to be followed by computers.

      Do you get your bill (usage) for your phone transmitted to the phone company wireless???

      Oh and as far as your permission, you are buying their product. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Go 100% Solar. That is your right.

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    • pasowino says:

      If you’re sensitive to electromagnetic radiation, also be careful with your microwave, internet wifi router, your neighbor’s internet wifi router, your cell phone, your neighbor’s cell phone, your neighbor’s neighbor’s cell phone, your television, your computer, etc, etc. There are a kazillion different radiation waves hitting us at all times. I wouldn’t worry too much about 1 more located on the outside of your house. I would be more concerned on what’s inside your house.

      I know some people are sensitive to electromagnetic radiation, so I hope you have figured out away to shield yourself from it, because this stuff is everywhere.

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  4. BeenThereDoneThat says:

    It’s too bad that PG&E is screwing up the smart meters. If you read the information on the idea of smart meters, I do think that they are a good idea going forward into the future. Unforunately if you have bozo’s messing up, then you may kill a good idea before it ever gets off the ground.

    I feel that (smart meters) are the only way towards competition in the future. Kind of where we were at with AT&T in the late 70’s and early 80’s before they were split and we have the competition we have today. I say this as an example of how AT&T owned and kept the backbone of the system and competition came in. I could see this with PG&E down the road. They keep the infrastructor and individual companies come in. This is where I think the smart meters come into play in helping facilitate that.

    (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
  5. bobfromsanluis says:

    …. And PG&E is pouring how many millions into promoting Prop 16? Oh yeah, 25 to 35 million dollars to pass legislation that would restrict a municipalities ability to compete in the field of electrical generation. At least they are identifying themselves as “major funders” of the Yes on 16 radio ads I keep hearing. Hopefully the voters will not be mislead by this devious campaign.

    (10) 12 Total Votes - 11 up - 1 down
    • cheseburger says:

      Pg&e rhymes with monopoly, and just why the hell do they have one, answer, they shouldn’t wind, solar, etc. Rec. Solar is a start and Jeff Rudd surfs as well as any man on earth “the owner”.

      (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down

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