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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Electric Co Bills $78,000

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Southern California Edison's faulty electric meters overcharged a single homeowner $78,000 in 10 years, and the company has 12 million customers, the man claims in a Superior Court class action.

The lead plaintiff claims SCE overcharged him about $650 a month for his home electricity for 10 years - $7,800 in overcharges per year.

SCE provides electricity to more than 12 million people in Southern California.

Lead plaintiff Robert Kleinberger claims that SCE began replacing its old meters with SmartConnect meters in September 2010. He claims that "incorrect measurements of mechanical meters" SCE used for years overcharged him and others, and that "plaintiff and the putative class had no reasonable way of knowing whether their mechanical meters were accurately monitoring their electricity range."

Kleinberger claims he "was charged in excess of 100 percent of his actual usage from the start of his electricity service in or about 2001 to 2010, when the SmartConnect meter was installed on plaintiff's premises. ... SCE overcharged plaintiff by an average of approximately $650 per month, which amounted to approximately $78,000 in excess electricity charges."

Kleinberger says his "September 2010 SCE bill (just before the SmartConnect meter was installed) was $1,025.53, but his November 2010 SCE bill (i.e., after the SmartConnect meter began properly monitoring plaintiff's electricity usage) dropped to only $353.97 - that is a difference of $671.56, even though plaintiff's usage did not meaningfully change between August 2010 and November 2010."

Kleinberger says he noticed in 2001 that his electricity bills were extraordinarily high, but SCE claimed his meter was accurate. Since the "faulty meter caused SCE to inflate each of the bills it sent to plaintiff (including the first bill after plaintiff moved into his residence), plaintiff had no prior usage or other reference against which he could compare his SCE bills," Kleinberger says.

California suffered a profound electricity crisis in 2000-2001, after deregulation. Electricity prices increased eightfold or more as traders learned to game the system. The market manipulation is believed to have cost consumers more than $40 billion. The enormous profits allowed Enron, among others, to post fat-looking gains, until other manipulation led to that company's collapse in October 2001. SCE, the largest electric company in Southern California, nearly went bankrupt during the crisis.

Kleinberger says he did not discover that his meter was inaccurate until September 2010, when SCE sent over a technician.

Kleinberger says when he "asked the SCE technician how he could have known if the mechanical meter was broken, the technician replied that there was no way for a consumer to determine his mechanical meter was malfunctioning without an SCE technician examining the meter and alerting the consumer."

In 2010, SCE reported a net income of $1 billion, $35 billion in total assets, and more than $9.9 billion in operating revenue.

Kleinberger says he does not challenge the electric rates, but he seeks "monetary damages for excessive billing for electricity by defendants as a result of faulty meters in place prior to the 'SmartConnect' meters installed at the consumers' premises."

He is represented by Quyen Kiet with Kiet, Cothran & Zirillo of Orange, Calif.

Follow @jamierossCNS
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