CenterPoint says under-read meters push natural gas bills higher

Published 6:38 pm Wednesday, March 14, 2007

About 3,500 customers of CenterPoint Energy in McComb, Magnolia and Osyka have received much higher natural gas bills in February because meters were under-read by a contractor.

CenterPoint Vice President David Baker, who is responsible for the company’s Louisiana and Mississippi districts, said Monday that the meter reader problem has been corrected.

“We are sending a letter to all of our customers that will have an 800-number for customer service,” he said. “We’re asking people to call that number and we will work out a payment plan to help them pay off their high bill.”

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“I got a bill for $415, and I know that I didn’t use that much gas last month,” said McComb resident Donnie Harper.

Harper said he called the CenterPoint office and was told current bills were higher to make up the difference in the under-reading of the meters.

Harper said he doesn’t believe that the customers should have to pay the high bills because of a contractor’s mistake.

Cassie Clark, who received a $300 bill, agreed.

“They should go back and make the contractor pay that,” she said.

“I don’t think I should have to pay that. Many of the people in my neighborhood are on fixed incomes and I’m on disability. How are we going to be able to pay this?”

Company officials said they cannot go back on the contractor because the bills reflect actual gas used.

“I know that getting a large bill at one time is a hard blow,” Baker said. “Unfortunately, this occurred during the worst part of the year, when it was cold. But we are willing to work with the customers to help them with these bills.”