Couple fights power company over meter mixup

Winter Garden couple says they paid for neighbor's power use for 1 ½ yrs

ORLANDO, Fla. - Judy and Gerald Smith purchased a newly built condominium in Winter Garden in September 2011. They moved in. Life was good. They thought their power bill was a bit high, but they had no idea for another year and a half that something was very wrong.

It all unraveled one night recently when Progress Energy turned off their power by mistake.

"They came out to turn the electricity back on," Judy said. "And the representative that turned it back on found the meters were switched."

And so was the billing.

"All the time since we moved in we were paying the neighbor's bill and they've been paying our bill," she said.

Which explains why, when the neighbor didn't pay the bill one month, the Smiths lost their power.  However, no one at Progress Energy was able to explain to the couple why the meters were switched --or how they would be compensated for the difference between how much they paid for their neighbor's usage and their actual usage. The difference is significant considering the neighbor's unit has three bedrooms and two and a half baths for a total of 1,693 square feet; the Smiths' condo has two bedrooms and two baths for a total of 1,195 square feet.

"Up until late December of 2012, my neighbor had five people living in his house.  So, we've been paying the bill for five people in a bigger unit," Judy said.

Local 6 reviewed the billing and the power usage for both units. The Smiths often paid double, sometimes even triple, their actual usage because they were powering their neighbor's unit.  Their total overpayment reached $1,395.09.

"We're not millionaires.  We need that money," she said.

Progress Energy ultimately fixed the mix-up by correcting the placement of the meters outside the condos. However, Smith said the power company gave her the run around about her overpayment.  She said she tried for over a month to get answers about a refund.  She described one phone call to Progress Energy that left her furious.

"I said ‘we're the victims here,' and she said, ‘do you have electricity in your home?' and I said, ‘yes,' and she said, ‘well, you don't have a legitimate complaint then, you still have electricity in your home.'"

Local 6 contacted Progress Energy and within 48 hours, the company processed a check to the Smiths for $1,613.47 (their overpayment, plus interest).  A spokesperson for Progress Energy said the company is not to blame for the meter misplacement.  He said it was a mistake made by the builder, contractor, or electrician on the construction project.

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