SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – One New Mexico woman is hoping people might pay closer attention to their electric bills after hearing her story.
Leah Berg of Santa Fe discovered PNM had been overbilling her for 16 years. Back in September, Berg said she started calling PNM after finding out the electric company wasn’t using a residential rate to bill her.
“They were charging us commercial rates from day one,” she said.
She only learned of the problem when installing solar panels.
The company that installed them was looking over her electric bills and noticed she was being charged more for the meter attached to her private well. She said she called PNM four times to try to rectify the situation.
“Talking with four different people and getting so many different answers,” Berg said.
PNM changed it from a business to a residential rate on Berg’s future bills, but getting the company to pay back the money it had been incorrectly charging her since 2002 was a different story.
“They weren’t making amends,” she said. “They have really… they’ve just behaved badly.”
Berg filed an informal complaint with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC).
The state agency that oversees utility rates stepped in to mediate, sparking an email chain between the parties.
The emails show PNM eventually offered to refund 11 of the 16 years of over-billing, saying that is as far back as its records go.
The electric company also made sure to point out that it’s only required by law to keep 7 years of records and only required by regulators to refund Berg for one year.
“I think that’s very convenient for PNM,” she said. “If you’re an honest company and you believe in doing the right thing and you believe in civility, then you make amends from the day that the problem occurred.”
PNM came up with a new offer, calculating the monthly average it overbilled Berg from the records it does have and adding five years of that to the total to make up for the records it no longer has.
The total came to $2,391.36.
By Berg’s account, it took about seven months to get to that point, so KRQE asked PNM if it should take that long for a customer to get an issue resolved.
“The simple answer is no, it shouldn’t have taken that long. But there’s a lot of different components at play here,” said Shannon Jackson, PNM spokesperson.
She said the company was quick to correct the rate for Berg’s future bills, but figuring out what to do about her previous bills took more time to research and make calculations.
“So, there has been a lot of back and forth. It has taken longer than it probably should have, but what we are most interested in is making this right for the customer,” Jackson said.
Now, Berg is taking this opportunity to remind others to take a closer look at their bill too.
“People need to be aware of this,” she said.
PNM said Berg’s case is rare, but customers can check their own rates on the back of each PNM bill. A number and a letter are typically listed under, “Rate.” 1A is the common rate for a home or apartment, and there are more than two dozen others.
Customers can go to this website for descriptions of the various rates: https://www.pnm.com/rates
UPDATE: PNM is going to change Leah Berg’s rate back to the higher, non-residential rate for her electric bills effective May 6, 2019, according to a letter the company sent Berg.
PNM says in the letter that new information, including e-mails, public statements and public records, show that businesses have been registered to Berg’s home address in Santa Fe.
This is a reversal of PNM’s position when spokesperson Shannon Jackson told KRQE in a March 22, 2019 interview, “There is no disagreement between PNM and the customer as far as what rate she should have been paying and for how long she should have been paying it. We want to right that wrong, and that’s what we’ve done.”
“It was under the wrong rate category, which has since then been corrected,” Jackson had said at the time.
While PNM’s recent letter says the company will change Berg back to a commercial rate for future bills, it states that PNM will still give Berg the credit it had offered for her previous bills.
This follows Berg’s original complaint that she had been overcharged on a business rate for 16 years.