13 Investigates: Woman’s bill nearly doubles in energy overcharge and ‘slamming’ scam

How much are you paying for energy? It may be too much. One stateline woman reached out to 13 Investigates when her bill nearly doubled

“In February that’s when it really went up,” said Kellie Brawner.

Brawner is on disability and lives on a fixed income, so when she got an electric bill for roughly $190 in January she was concerned. It was about $90 higher than she was used to paying. Her concern turned to panic when she got her bill for February, at over $260.

“People like me can’t afford to just automatically get a bill and it’s $300 more and if you don’t pay it you don’t have electric,” she said.

13 Investigates looked over her bills and noticed the jumps happened when her supplier changed from Oasis Energy to Green Mountain.  Something she says she never authorized. We took her bills to the Citizens Utility Board in downtown Chicago to figure out why her energy costs skyrocketed.

“Here it’s 6.9 cents per kilowatt hour. It goes up to 13.9,” said CUB Communications Director Jim Chilsen. “This customer paid double for electricity.”

Chilsen says often times companies go door to door or call offering a lower rate. But that rate jumps after an introductory period. What’s worse is he says sometimes the companies switch people without their permission.

“It could be just somebody coming to your door and saying can I look at your bill I want to see if you qualify for this money saving plan. And once they see your bill, they get your account number and they can sign you up without your permission and that’s a scam called slamming,” said Chilsen.

“Slamming” is illegal. But it’s also hard to prove a company’s done it.

Brawner maintains she never gave anyone permission to switch her supplier. 13 Investigates reached out to Green Mountain Energy for an interview. It would not go on camera but refutes Brawner’s claim that she didn’t sign up for their service emailing us in part, “We’ve reviewed our records and have found that the customer was not switched to Green Mountain without her consent…”

The company went on to say

“Ms. Brawner signed up for a three month introductory price plan through door-to-door enrollment.”

It also says it gave Brawner the terms of service and says she agreed to them.

But Chilsen said he has his doubts Brawner agreed to the terms or that they were explained clearly to her.

“Would anybody under the sun agree to a plan that ended up charging them double for electricity?” he said.

Brawner  has since canceled her account with Green Mountain Energy and hopes her story serves as a warning to others.

“I just want to be back on the normal rate and I don’t want anybody to switch me without my permission again,” she said.

After 13 Investigates got involved– Brawner says Green Mountain offered to refund her $187. Money she says she never would have gotten back if we hadn’t done our investigation.

CLICK HERE for tips from CUB to avoid electric rip-offs.

If you have a story you want 13 Investigates to look into, call our tip line at 815-335-7890.

Kristin Crowley

Kristin Crowley

Evening News Anchor

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