Realizing her natural gas bill have been “really ridiculous” at nearly three times what they should be, Charlotte Allen of Claypool has called NIPSCO several times asking them to come check her meter.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” she said of her latest bill, totaling $441 for natural gas alone. “It hasn’t even really been cold out till now.”
But for Allen, the meter has not been the problem. “I live in an older home and I know that’s going to cost me more, but this is ridiculous,” she explained. “I knew this cold was coming so I called NIPSCO again and the last guy who came out looked at my bill and pointed something out.”
Allen, unfortunately, has fallen victim to what she – and many others – believe to be a scam by an independent energy provider.
Allen explained she was working in her yard in 2010 when someone from Spark Energy LP approached her and asked her if she would like to save money on her utility bill. “I signed up for one year, but I’m still being charged and this is just wrong,” she added. “I called them and told them to cancel my service like yesterday and the person I talked to said it would take 15 to 45 days. That was not acceptable.”
The biggest problem with the bill, as the NIPSCO official pointed out to Allen, is that she is being charged 90 cents per therm versus NIPSCO’s 36 cents per therm rate. She says there is an additional fee on the bill as well, but neither Spark Energy nor NIPSCO can tell her what that is for.
Although NIPSCO has been trying to work with Allen on getting the problem resolved, Allen has had to resort to her only other option for the time being. She had her account suspended and had her son open an account in his name. “He lives here so NIPSCO let us do that for now,” she explained. “I just really want to make people aware of what is happening and make sure they know what to look for on their bills. This happened to me and to my best friend.”
NIPSCO’s own website shows Spark Energy and several other companies as “choice suppliers.” According to nipsco.com, “NIPSCO purchases your natural gas supply for you and delivers it to your home. As a regulated company, we simply pass along the price we pay for natural gas directly on to you with no markup. This program opens up the marketplace so that other natural gas suppliers can now compete for your business, offering natural gas at competitive prices. The NIPSCO Choice Program makes it easy for you to take full advantage of this competition and selectively shop for the offer that best meets your needs.”
Allen said she plans to contact the Indiana Attorney General’s office with her own story noting, “I just really want to make sure people are aware of this and to check their bills closely.”