If a business owner undercharges a customer, one may think it would be their mistake, right? That’s not the case according to a business owner in Shelby who is trying to figure out how to pay a $30,000 Duke Energy bill.
Scott Ellis, president of Ellis Lumber Company, called On Your Side Investigates about the problem. He said they’ve been paying their power bill like clockwork since 1946. They’ve never had a problem until a letter arrived from Duke in September.
“It said that Duke Energy had a problem with their meter and evidently it goes back two years,” he said.
Ellis said he was completely unaware the meter had been malfunctioning and undercharging his company. But that didn’t seem to matter to Duke.
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“They said they’ll be billing me for one year of their mistake, which equals over 28,000 dollars,” Ellis said.
After some back-and-forth, Duke originally offered to put Ellis on a payment plan, starting with a $10,000 charge due Monday by 5 p.m., or the power would be cut. Late Tuesday afternoon, Duke extended that deadline by a week.
But once Ellis pays the ten grand, his problems won’t be over. He’ll still be required to pay Duke $1,700 a month for the next year.
“I’ve been in business or around it all my life, and if I were undercharging one of my customers that don’t give me the right to send them a bill,” he said.
Duke Energy told WBTV a piece of Ellis’ meter slowed down or stopped working, and that it was his responsibility to catch the problem. Ellis said the bill decrease was so gradual, he didn’t notice it.
“The North Carolina Utility’s Commission requires that Duke back-bill customers to ensure the customer using the electricity is the one who pays for it,” a spokesperson said.
Ellis said he’s paying up because if the power stops, so does his business. But he says it’s won’t be easy.
“Especially here at Christmas, giving out bonuses. I mean, I didn’t cut that but it was hard not to,” he said.
Ellis said he wouldn’t run his business like this, but he wants people to know others do.
“I guess I’m just a number to Duke Energy. I’ll just take it one day at a time and see what happens,” he said.
Duke Energy advises customers to keep a close eye on their bills. If you see a significant increase or decrease, call to make sure your meter is functioning properly.