Hundreds of commercial clients affected by Austin Energy billing - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Hundreds of commercial clients affected by Austin Energy billing glitch

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Four Points Platinum Machining is how Tensay Johnson provides for his family. His livelihood is being threatened because of an Austin Energy billing mistake.

Tensay said, "For me to go back to my customers and go, 'hey, you owe me more money,' it would be ridiculous."

"The tariff allows for the utility to look at each summer month, June through August, and determine based on that customer's usage whether or not they go up," said Jawana Gutierrez, with Austin Energy.

She says the internal review results were released in March, in the form of these letters.

That's a seven month billing delay for about 400 commercial customers.

Tensay asked, "Why do they have the power to do this to us?"

Tensay operates the part manufacturing business and another called the "Distinguished Glass Company."

Combined, his billing corrections add up to almost $2,000.

"One big spreadsheet that goes into how do we price our services, so that light bill's a factor in that," said Tensay. "I can understand going forward, but going backwards, who does that?"

Jawana said, "It is delayed and we took that extra time this year because...this is the first time under the new rate we've used this methodology of looking at summer months."

Commercial Austin Energy customers have to pay a fee for what's called a "demand charge."

"It's their energy used when you start a motor or start something that draws heavy power," said Jawana. "The new rates say when they're demand exceeds 10 kilowatts, then they are to move to a different class. It's really the next higher rate class."

That's what apparently happened to Tensay.

"How did they come up with putting me into a whole new category. Nothing changes," said Tensay. "How am I using more?"

"If we know there's been consumption, we cannot waive those charges," added Jawana.

Customers can request for a more intensive review if they feel they've been placed in a higher rate class incorrectly, during those summer months.

Jawana said, "We are offerring every customer an option to pay those extra dollars over time."

"At this point, nobody has tried to contact me about a payment plan," said Tensay.

Austin Energy is making a promise to customers.

"It will be on track from this point forward," said Jawana.

Tensay said, "The private sector could not do business like this."

According to early numbers, commercial customers owe Austin Energy about $715,000.

Austin Energy says they expect that number to change soon.

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