As if the economy wasn’t taxing the budgets of most consumers enough, billing errors have compounded the frustration and stress of many Oncor and TXU Energy customers. The Star Telegram reported that about 130,000 customers received inaccurate billing during the month of May. According to the article, a Hurst police officer, Chris Teague utilized average billing through TXU and usually paid $225 per month, but his bill increased to $430 for May. During three hours of conversation with customer service representatives, he was still being advised to pay the incorrect bill to avoid interruption of his service. Some of the affected customers finally obtained relief by asking for the “escalated issues” department. Unfortunately, some were more drastically affected than others. The article said: “Customers hit hardest are those who pay with automated bank drafts, says Mike Renfro, direct of customer service at the Public Utility Commission. ‘Their accounts were hit with a $300 charge, and four or five days later, they did it again,’ he said.” Oncor assures that the problem will “rectify itself” because Oncor and TXU don’t get to keep the overpayments as profits, instead they are applied as credits to customer accounts so that eventually payments will catch up to usage. That’s comforting for some, but many average consumers live on a paycheck to paycheck basis in this economy. Meaning… that even and extra unplanned $200.00 hit on their bank account is likely to spiral the rest of their month’s budget. It is good that Oncor and TXU now recognize the problem and are taking steps to remedy future issues. Howe ever, this recognition still does little to assist you with a new “budget deficit.” From climbing gas prices to computer “glitches” in billing programs, one almost has to wonder what a consumer has to do to get a break these days.
The bottom line is that consumers end up paying for many decisions they were never involved in. We didn’t design the computer program at Oncor. We didn’t ask for higher prices at the grocery store. But in the end, we do pay for all the high priced decisions. Regardless of our best efforts to manage budgets and set up automated payment options to insure we pay our bills on time, glitches beyond our control still happen. Most of the time we can fix the little things on our own. But there are times when we need extra help or an extra voice. The Star Telegram was an extra voice for those that were affected by the Oncor billing “glitch.” When your budget is stretched beyond capacity, bankruptcy may or may not be the best option for you, but good information and advocacy will help you balance the challenge in getting good information to make the best choice for your financial security.