'Estimated' utility bills expected after storm
The state Public Service Commission is warning customers their utility bills might be a little higher than expected in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
Customers will receive "estimated" rather than "actual" bills in the next billing cycle because of the snowstorms caused by Superstorm Sandy, PSC spokeswoman Susan Small said in a news release.
Small said the situation is similar to that of the June 29 windstorm that caused customers to see a rise in their bills before the outages were reflected.
Last week's snowstorm knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of customers across the state, affecting the way the electric companies bill their customers.
Small said customers normally receive an electric bill that reflects their actual usage one month and an estimated bill based on last year's usage the next.
That won't be the case in the next bill, she said. Appalachian Power, Mon Power, Potomac Edison and Wheeling Power all reported pulling employees from their regular duties, such as reading meters, to help in the restoration effort.
"As a result, more customers than normal will receive 'estimated' rather than 'actual bills' in the next billing cycle," Small said in the release.
She said the estimated bills would not reflect any loss of service during the usage period.
Small said commissioners wanted to assure customers that their bills eventually would be "trued up" as their next bill would be based on an actual reading.
"In other words, after paying an estimated bill and the next bill based on actual usage, a customer will have paid no more than what was used," Small said.
Electric companies were not the only utility affected. Water, telephone and natural gas utilities also were affected by the storm.
West Virginia American Water said it was not necessary to take meter readers off their regular duties but some readers could not get to the meters because of heavy snowfall. Small said that means more customers could receive estimated bills.
Customers who lost water service can expect to see slightly lower bills due to decreased usage when meters can be read.
Small said telephone companies are required to pro-rate bills when services are interrupted for specified periods of time unless the customer causes the loss. She said customers who were without service could contact their telephone service provider to request a bill adjustment.
Small said some natural gas customers could receive up to three estimated bills in a row in situations where the gas meters were inaccessible or if there were safety concerns for company employees.