LP&L customers outraged at hikes, utility admits billing mistake

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Updated: 7/19/2013 5:08 am
The full blow of the Lubbock Power and Light rate increase has taken effect. Brian Wilkinson and Deanne Clark are customers.

"It shot from $240 to $370." Wilkinson said.

"I'm just going to have to cut something else. I'm just not sure where. But I will have to cut something." Clark said.

Thousands of LP&L customers are infuriated by the totals on their latest bills. Some took to social media to voice their frustrations. The "I Hate LP&L" page on Facebook has almost 5,000 "likes" and it's rising.

Crystal Sumner has organized a protest in front of the LP&L building downtown on Monday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. She hopes it will get LP&L to notice.

"We want the them to see our faces and see how hurt and upset we are about this situation and make it really clear, to hopefully drive some chance out of that." Sumner said.

Mayor Glen Robertson and his council colleagues have also been getting flack for the frustrating bills.

"The complaints that I'm hearing, even the very, very vocal complaints that are crossing the line, I don't have a problem with, because these people have a right to be upset." The mayor said.

He added that LP&L customers weren't given enough time to budget for the increase. Matt Rose of LP&L said because the rate increases have been put off for so long, the utilities don't have the luxury to wait.

"Unfortunately the timing, it was more fiscally responsible to do it June 1st vs. October 1st." Rose said.

More and more people are moving inside to escape the heat of the summer. But it's more than just that and the rate increase that are causing a huge increase on people's bills.

"The fuel surcharges passes through, that there was an extremely large increase."

"I'll move to Wolfforth, spend the extra gas to drive back and forth. At least that way I can have some kind of say as to what my utilities are." Wilkinson said.

"I just cannot pay what they're asking." Clark added.

LP&L board member Clayton Isom understands the hike is difficult for customers, but it could be worse.

"Even after this increase, they're paying less for their electricity than they would be with anyone else in the state of Texas." He said.

The mayor hopes the board will decide to rescind the increase until temperatures moderate. Isom said he hopes the board will meet early next week to discuss options.

"We got to stop, however long it takes, to review the situation. Make sure what we've done is fair and do-able." Isom said.

Matters were made more complicated due to an accounting glitch during the first half of the June pay period. Some customers were undercharged. They'll have to pay that balance. LP&L business managers will decide how to add those charges later.

STATEMENT FROM LP&L:

LUBBOCK, Texas - Lubbock Power & Light recently uncovered a computer system error that caused approximately 44,000 utility customers to be incorrectly billed last month.  The error, which was identified and corrected by LP&L staff, affected customers who were billed during the first half of June.

"During the migration to our summer rates, LP&L's computer system billed some customers at the lower winter rate," said Matt Rose, LP&L spokesman.  "We deeply regret this unfortunate error and apologize for any inconvenience. 

"The error, which was caught by our internal audit system, caused customers to be billed at the lower, winter rate fuel rate, rather than the higher summer rate fuel.  We have corrected the problem and will work with our affected customers to minimize its impact."

In February, LP&L migrated to a new billing software. Extensive testing was conducted on the software to check for any potential errors within the system.  The software went live at the end of February but continual testing took place throughout the spring months to monitor for any potential errors. 

 When the system converted from winter to summer rates June 1, some of the more than 1,000 factors within the system reverted to winter rate settings.  Customers billed in the first 10 cycles of June received bills with an artificially low fuel cost adjustment.  LP&L has 22 billing cycles per month.  By the 10th billing cycle of June, LP&L analysts discovered and corrected the system error.

Given how the computer billing system operates, analysts were required to wait until July to access how the error affected the system.  By Wednesday July 17, LP&L determined the error affected 44,000 customers in the first 10 billing cycles in June.

"Historically, the largest increase an electric customer will see all year occurs from May to June," Rose said. "For those customers who were incorrectly billed during the first part of June, their electric bills were about the same or lower than their May bills.  Therefore, when those customers got their July electric bill, which had the 9.5 percent rate increase, it looked like the rate increase was much higher." 

The LP&L Electric Utility Board will meet as soon as possible to discuss how to address those customers who were under-billed for the first two weeks in June.  For any customer who feels they were incorrectly billed, please call LP&L customer service at (806) 775-2509.




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Ttu6224 - 7/20/2013 9:03 AM
0 Votes
I like that we have a power company who doesn't actually make power... I wouldn't go to a pizza parlor whose oven is turned off; that just goes to the pizza hut next door and tries to pass it off as their own.

drkknght1138 - 7/19/2013 2:52 PM
0 Votes
A billing glitch that we are somehow responsible for? No LP&L. YOU can eat those charges and write them off. No way someone should be charged another increase due to an error in YOUR billing system. Most folks (myself included) are having a heck of time coming up with the extra $150 for our bill as they are. Bunch of money grabbing hose noses!

NunyaBiz - 7/19/2013 2:45 AM
0 Votes
"Sorry baby. I didn't meant to beat you but you can't do any better. You have no choice." 9.7% increase plus $0.01 per kWh, plus the unknown "Xcel energy increased their prices this year, and LP&L is passing those increases along." equals ?? Who knows? Any mathematicians out there that can figure the equation for this one? I thought monopolies were wrong. I remember something being pounded into my brain about that in school.
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