Smart meter error leaves man with nearly $1,000 MLGW bill

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The MLGW website says smart meters are "99 percent reliable" and much more accurate than traditional analog meters.

Try telling that to a Memphis family who just got a letter from MLGW telling them their smart meter's been broken for years, the utility had no idea there was a problem, and now the family owes $1,000.

"I had hoped it was a mistake at first," said Midtown resident Randall Sloan.  "It was a bill for $968 because our meter broke in 2015."

Sloan said he was stunned when he opened MLGW's letter on Wednesday afternoon, notifying him he'd been underbilled for more than two years.

An MLGW spokesperson says Sloan's smart meter for gas transmitted the wrong information to the utility.  Even though he'd paid his bill in full each month, he was being charged the wrong amount.

"It took them 26 months to figure it out," said Sloan, "and now they want me to pay the difference they somehow figured out accurately for that entire amount of time."

MLGW says Sloan's smart meter mishap is extremely rare.  A spokesperson going as far as saying it's the first time they utility's had something like this happen.

The MLGW website touts smart meter technology: "What makes these meters smart is the ability to communicate with the utility."  That clearly didn't happen in Sloan's case.

"I have the biggest utility bill I've ever had in my life," he said. "Personally, I'd like to not be on the hook for the entire two years.  That seems like an incredible amount of liability for them to hold me accountable for. And ultimately I'd like to see them check these meters way more often."

Sixty percent of MLGW meters are now smart meters.  MLGW expects to be done with smart meter installation in 2020.  Randall Sloan was pro smart meters when the conversion was announced, but now, he says he'll never trust his bill again.  Smart meters, in his experience, are anything but.

"I'm going to pay the bill," he said reluctantly, "and I'm going to keep paying.  I'm going to keep being an MLGW customer because I have no choice whatsoever."

The utility installed a new smart meter on Sloan's house in February.  He's been offered a payment plan for the outstanding balance, but even with that option, there won't be a summer vacation for his family.  And, he says, he'll look at every bill a lot more closely in the future.

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