PG&E, You’d Never Lie to Me, But Just in Case—Let Me Check with TURN

Hear what TURN has to say about trusting PG&E

This past winter, TURN member Spencer T. contacted TURN about his PG&E bill after discovering he had been on the wrong rate schedule for eight years. PG&E had told Spencer T. that he was not entitled to any refund from them, but just to be sure, he checked with us.

You see, Spencer T. has an all-electric household, including his heating system. This means he should be on PG&E’s all electric baseline allowance. When Spencer T. first called PG&E to inquire about the matter, they told him he was on the correct rate schedule. But in the PG&E bill insert, it was stressed that all-electric homes are eligible for a higher baseline. The insert read:

Electric Baseline Allowance
The last character in your electric rate schedule determines your electric baseline allowance. If your permanent source of heat is not correctly reflected in your rate schedule per the following list, please contact PG&E.

Consumers Fight Back Tip

Utility customer service representatives are mostly trained in sales, and have little power to resolve billing issues. They are under great pressure sometimes to meet quotas, particularly in telecommunications. So if your issue has not been resolved after one phone call, go ahead and take the time to write a letter to the company, and if need be, the CPUC. Often, putting something in writing will escalate the complaint to a level where the issue can be resolved satisfactorily.

B = Basic electric service.
H = All-electric service.
M = Basic plus medical baseline allowances.
S = All-electric plus medical baseline allowances.

As the insert suggested, Spencer T. called PG&E yet again and said that his household and heating source are all-electric. PG&E sent someone out to verify his all-electric status. They then adjusted his baseline. When he asked if he could get a refund for the overcharges he’d paid, PG&E said no (no surprise there).

That’s when he called TURN. We informed him he was entitled to a refund for up to three years back due to PG&E’s billing error, and advised him to file a complaint with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and send a copy to PG&E.

Spencer mailed his complaint to the CPUC, and sent a copy to PG&E Vice President of Customer Satisfaction Beverly Alexander. He also sent a copy to his local Stockton billing office.

Apparently the complaint was the kick-in-the-pants PG&E needed. Shortly thereafter, PG&E contacted him to let him know they had done the appropriate re-calculations, and that he would be credited $1,241 for the last three years of the billing error.

“PG&E is so unresponsive, you have to push them to the limit to get them to do anything,” Spencer T. said. “They’re not customer-oriented. Calling is never enough, you have to write letters, send certified mail. Sometimes it seems like it takes an act of Congress to get them to do anything.” In this case, advice from TURN did the trick!

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