Putting A Stop to Illegally Inflated PG&E Bills

With TURN’s help, you can learn to fight back.

Anthony Ciccotelli was shocked when he received a PG&E bill for over $12,000, along with a letter from PG&E apologizing for their error in not billing him for close to four years. He knew he hadn’t seen a PG&E bill in awhile, but he’d had more pressing issues on his mind than bills that he hadn’t received. That changed when the 28-page bill from PG&E arrived in the mail. "Not only do I find it ridiculous that they waited three years to send me a bill, the amount they calculated, $12,378.72, is absolutely absurd," Ciccotelli said in an email. He was even more shocked when he read that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) had just ordered PG&E to refund $35 million to more than 150,000 customers who were improperly back-billed. Confused about the seeming discrepancy, he filed a complaint with the CPUC through TURN’s website. "I could really use some helpful advice," he pleaded.

While his complaint languished at the CPUC, TURN sprang into action. According to PG&E’s rules, customers cannot be back-billed for more than three months worth of charges if the utility has committed a billing error. After discovering that PG&E was routinely violating that rule, TURN convinced the CPUC to refund money to customers who had been illegally back-billed. But despite the CPUC’s refund order PG&E had openly admitted in their letter that it was their fault Mr. Ciccotelli hadn’t received accurate bills.

After talking with TURN, Mr. Ciccotelli called PG&E and explained to a customer service representative that they were not following their own rules, but the rep he spoke with insisted he owed the entire $12,378.72. Mr. Ciccotelli also called one of PG&E’s local offices, where he was given the same inaccurate information. TURN’s response to Mr. Ciccotelli’s story was very different.

TURN spoke with some of our media contacts, most of whom were aware of the controversy surrounding PG&E’s back-billing practices, and were also aware of the CPUC order requiring PG&E to refund money they’d pressured customers to pay, as well as the costs of shut-offs and deposits that resulted from the illegal billing. After the consumer teams from KPIX-TV in Sacramento and San Francisco interviewed Mr. Ciccotelli and TURN executive director Bob Finkelstein, they called P&GE to ask for a response. PG&E ducked the call, insisting no one in their PR department was available to speak with KPIX. However, hours later Mr. Ciccotelli received a call from the same PR department saying that they were sending him a new bill, revised to cover only the three months allowable by law.

Mr. Ciccotelli is now one of TURN’s newest members. He has this to say about the whole ordeal:

"If TURN hadn’t been there I don’t know what I would have done. An unpaid bill for this much money can have huge implications on a consumer’s life. I was worrying about my credit, whether I would have to refinance my house, what I could sell, how much I would need to tighten my belt. It was scary. Consumers throughout California are lucky to have TURN on their side."