(CN) - Texas' biggest electric company installed defective "smart meters" that drove residential customers' bills to nearly $2,000 a month, according to a class action in Dallas County Court. The class claims Oncor Electric Delivery Co. is "laughing all the way to the bank."
Named plaintiffs Robert and Jennifer Cordts say their monthly electric bills of $400 to $700 were driven above $1,800 after their smart meter was installed.
Smart meters deliver more information to the utility company than standard meters, and can adjust billing for time of day or season, allegedly so consumers pay less during times of low demand and more when demand is high.
But the Cordts say that when they questioned Oncor about their exorbitant bills, the company asked them "about Christmas lights and the temperature at which they maintain their thermostat." Then they got another bill for more than $1,800.
"The Cordts have now received three months of bills totaling just under $5,000," the complaint states. "The part of this story that is more absurd than the objectively egregious amount of the billing is Oncor's explanation - geez, it's sure been pretty cold lately."
The complaint adds: "Instead of looking the Texas consumer in the eye and providing a truthful explanation for exorbitant overbilling, Oncor is giving everyone the run-around. Consumers are tired of being told that a 200 percent overnight increase in their electric bill following installation of a 'smart' meter is due to an 'unusually cold winter' or a change in their energy consumption choices."
Oncor has installed around 829,000 smart meters, according to the complaint. It adds that Oncor conducted "side-by-side" meter tests to try to persuade the public there is nothing wrong with the smart meters, but the tests "only address whether a given smart meter measures electricity in the same manner as a traditional meter," and does not answer whether the communication or software systems are accurately sending the data for billing.
The class claims that CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric admitted there were technological glitches with smart meters after it installed the meters in the Houston-area. The meters were not "accurately reporting consumer usage of electricity and improperly overbilling consumers for electricity they had not consumed," according to the complaint.
The Cordts seek class certification and damages for fraud and negligence. They are represented by Jason Berent with Berent and Wilson.Follow @@jamierossCNS
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