Wednesday, April 19, 2006

DTE ENERGY is overestimating us out of house and home

Have you ever actually looked at your utility bill? I mean, really in depth, looked at it? Like kissy face, mhwhh mhwhh, Oh DTE, I wanna marry you and have your little gaseous electrobunny babies? Most people don't give the bill the attention it deserves. Are you one of them? Do you merely cringe, and go online to pay it (or break out the old fashion checkbook and stamp)?

Regardless, it is very important to make sure that A) your readings are actual, or B) if they are estimated, then that the company is doing a fair and balanced projection. Otherwise THEY are winning and you should just piss your money down the drain. For those like us, who move around yearly, and are never in one place long enough for the company to use our previous year's usage to estimate the current season's, well we are just SOL.

Below see the story of two graduate students who move yearly or bi-yearly and how DTE energy hopes to skate by, and sort of does, then sort of doesn't.

My husband and I are super super cheap when it comes to energy. We never set the thermostat above 55 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, and sometimes not above 45. We put on sweaters and cuddle dogs.

This year I have had to call DTE at least 8 times to correct our overestimated bill.

You can enter your own meter reading online. If, however, you miss the target deadline for meter-entering you have to contact DTE directly because there is a window of about 5 days during which you can enter your own reading. Contacting them directly, especially sucks when your cell phone does not work in your semi-subterranean concrete-as-all-get-out apartment complex.

Have I mentioned that A) we don't have a land line and B) we get all our energy bills online now. So to place a call to DTE I have to take my laptop outside (because you need your friggen account number), stand by the meter to read the current number (unless you were smarter than me and wrote it down, or typed it up on the open MSword file), and press a multitude of numbers on your phone to finally get a person. No, dear automated caller system, I am not calling to find out how much I owe. I will not press 1!!! I know how much I owe and it is incorrect!

After 6 calls, silly me finally discovered how to email customer service. Not nearly as satisfying as a real person, but what the hey. I can't believe this took me so long since my preferred method of communication is email.

Let's backtrack for a moment however, and go back to the start of September, when the first call (after the initial to set up service) to DTE was placed.

Call 1 to DTE (Call's 2-6 pretty similar, but with mounting snarkism and frustration):

Me: "Hi, I'm calling to report my reading because you have over-estimated my bill."

DTE: "Why don't you go ahead and give me your reading." pause click click "OK, your new amount is 35.00."
Me: "Thanks for fixing that."
DTE:"Is there anything else I can do for you?"
Me: "Why yes there is. You see we just moved from St. Louis. My husband and I use a lot less energy than most people. In St. Louis I had to call a lot to get my bill fixed, they finally gave me postage paid slips to mail in with my reading. Do you have something similar?"
DTE:"You can enter a reading online. But you know, if you just let it go for a month it will get fixed the next time they read."
Me:"Well, I don't like to overpay my bills. Do you think they will be reading regularly?"
DTE:"I can't guarantee anything" click click pause click "But I'm not certain why they've estimated your complex, it looks like they should be out there once a month."
Me:"Thanks for the help."

After 8 months, this situation is still ongoing. If they never took a reading I would put the date on my calendar and be sure to enter my own reading. The problem is, that they take enough readings (about every 2 months) for me to forget to read. It's not worth my while to stay on top of the date and read, then enter it within the "window of opportunity." So by the time the bill comes and we've used 0-5ccfs, they have us estimated for 20-70. WTF? WTF?

Finally in frustration, I emailed my representatives, They recommended filing a complaint with the PSC at,1607,7-159-16368---,00.html (there is a complaint link along the left-hand side).

After filing my complaint, a very personable representative from DTE contacted me and "investigated" the problem. She found that the readers were coming out but for some reason the company wasn't using the readings. Go figure? I sure don't get it! She has designated our address as a "hot spot" and hopes the problem is fixed. We'll see next month.

On the aside summary you can see in red everytime I had to call and the credit given to my account for overestimation. You can also get your yucks off if you're into looking at how much gas a person uses (like none for many of the winter months).

Our main bones with dte: What does the basic service entail if not a meter read once a month? We don't live in the boonies but in the middle of Ann Arbor. I also shouldn't be out the time, energy (no pun intended), and emotional drainage this situation has caused. Who has an extra $100 (or $400) for them to catch up with you eventually? I sure don't. What other service do we pay for that we don't use? If you are having problems like this, I urge you to contact State officials to let them know, and work for a more fair system for the consumers. Practices like these should frankly be illegal.


Blogger R2K said...

: )

5:37 PM  
Blogger Raoul said...

I had no idea energy companies overestimated our bills. This was an eye-opener for me.

Beautiful dogs, by the way! My wife and I think they're just adorable. :-)

6:14 AM  
Blogger emma said...

thanks for the complaint link. Have you ever tried to find a complaint department through DTE's website? I recently left detroit and the only good thing about leaving my home of 35 years, except of course my new husband, was leaving DTE. Just when I thought I had escaped them. Here is my complaint/rant.
"I have started receiving collections calls from an extremely rude and aggressive company, CCB, for an amount of money, $61.23, that I have never received a bill for. After checking my online records it came to my attention that this bill, I never received notice of, does indeed have my correct new address. In addition this bill appears to be for a period of time after I moved out of the residence. I do not have a problem paying the money if I owe it, I do however have a very big problem with being sent to collections and the effect this is going to have on my credit report. I also have a problem with a collections agency who uses fear tactics and threats to attempt to get me to pay for something I am going to dispute. Particularly after he tells me that people not receiving bills from DTE is common. When I explained that I needed to speak to DTE regarding this matter and have it removed from collections, if in fact I even owe this amount, he began to pressure me into giving him a post dated check or else these collections calls wouldn't stop (his apologies, there is nothing he can do about that.) Then he follows up with threats that if I pay DTE directly instead of CCB the calls could continue for months until the paperwork catches up. I tried to politely explain that I felt as if paying a collection agency was equivalent to admission of "guilt" and even if I owe the money I am not delinquent as I never received a bill. May I also note that not only did I never receive a paper bill I never received an email notification that a bill was ready for me. I attempted to contact DTE but they were unable to take my call do to call volume. Frankly, I would love to call back repeatedly and wait on hold before filing this formal complaint but honestly I have made a good faith effort to finalize my account when I moved, thinking that I paid my balance in full and never receiving any notice of outstanding balance I have moved on with my life. It may seem extreme but my dte experience has been one problem after another and one good thing about leaving Detroit has been leaving DTE. I really am no longer willing to sit on hold for 20-30 minutes waiting to speak to a real person. "

1:10 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Hi There, I had something similar happen to me. I had a supposed balance on my acct that i never received a bill for despite leaving my new forwarding address and they sent me to collections as well. Furthermore, I paid the balance and it was never reported. It sounds like I am not the only one.

11:06 AM  
Blogger Seth said...

I'm afraid I disagree with your sentiments about heat vs. cold, but we are with one accord as far as DTE energy is concerned. I don't use gas eight months out of the year, and it used to be that gas service could be disconnected separately from electricity. They recently instituted a policy that changed this, which now requires us customers to pay their monthly "customer charge" in addition to the gas wasted by the pilot light etc. I sent a complaint to DTE's "customer service" department. If they can't resolve it, I might do as you suggest and contact the MPSC. Thanks for your post!

1:19 PM  

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