Cancellation bill of $30,000?

August 18, 2009 2:36:05 PM PDT
Saving on you power bill could be as easy as switching providers, but when one local business owner switched power companies, she says the bills got bigger. In fact, she says they got three times bigger. And the problems got worse when she tried to cancel the service.

For two years, Danielle Michaels' car repair shop saw power bills that were fairly consistent.

"Our average bill was anywhere from $700 and $800 a month," she said.

Looking to save money, Michaels switched from TXU to U.S. Energy Savings after a customer working for the power company said U.S. Energy Savings could lower her costs. Michaels signed a five-year contract, but when the first bill came, the costs were not lower.

"The first month's bill went from a normal bill of approximately $750 up to $2,300," said Michaels.

Michaels' old bills showed she uses about 3,000 kilowatts of power per month, but the U.S. Energy Savings bill showed the car repair shop used 21,000 kilowatt hours. So Michaels contacted a company service rep who said the big bill would be adjusted

And then the second bill came and again, the charge was for more than $2,000.

"CenterPoint did a re-read, got with them," said Michaels. "They still did not adjust my bill."

By this time, U.S. Energy Savings changed names to Just Energy. Michaels says she decided to make a change, too, by canceling her service and going back to TXU. But that was not the end of her power problems. Somehow, her company got switched back to Just Energy.

Michaels says her previous Just Energy bills were eventually lowered. Even so, she switched back to TXU again and that's when the small business was hit with a big cancellation fee.

"Somehow, they gave me a cancellation fee of my contract of $30,000," she said.

Our calls to Just Energy have not been returned, but the complaints of one small business have been echoed by others to the Houston Better Business Bureau.

"They were promising them rates that were not rates they were actually getting when they got their bill," said Monica Russo with the BBB. "We also saw cancellation fee problems."

The Houston Better Business Bureau is now removing Just Energy's membership because of the complaints. We called the parent company in Canada, and still have not heard back. Just Energy did lower the bills, but we have not heard anything about the cancellation fee.

Story update: Five days from when we first reported this story, Just Energy says a mistake was made and the actual cost for breaking the five year contract is $3,000.

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