Troubleshooters: PGW working to reverse charges that resulted in huge bills for some customers

We've gotten a response from PGW after several customers reached out to the Action News Troubleshooters.

ByNydia Han and Cheryl Mettendorf via WPVI logo
Thursday, June 30, 2022
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PGW said Thursday it is now working to reverse some charges after the Action News Troubleshooters reached out on behalf of several customers.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) said Thursday it is now working to reverse some Weather Normalization Charges after the Action News Troubleshooters reached out on behalf of a number of customers who were charged a "Weather Authorization Adjustment" ranging anywhere from just over $50 to nearly $3,000.

Those customers were among the thousands who saw their bills jump recently.

In a statement, PGW President and CEO Seth Shapiro said that the WNA charges have been a component of its rates for more than two decades, and the equation calculating the charge worked properly in May.

However, he acknowledged it "produced an effect which is not what is intended and is unfair to our customers."

Shapiro said PGW has filed a petition with the Public Utility Commission to reverse the charges for May 2022. If the petition is granted, Shapiro said the credits would appear on customers' July or August bills.

"Customers can also be assured that PGW is diligently seeking a longer-term solution to prevent this highly unusual circumstance from repeating in the future," he said.

PGW says the Weather Normalization Adjustment is used by utilities across the country. The adjustment is applied to monthly bills from October through May.

A surcharge is applied to the bill for bill periods when the temperature is warmer than normal and customers use less gas.

For bill periods that are colder than normal, a credit is applied.

PGW said this makes customers' gas heating bills more predictable and stable and lets utilities cover the costs of maintaining their systems even when gas use is lower than expected.

The Troubleshooters asked PGW how the WNA is calculated but are still waiting for a response to that question.

"It's so unfair. It's really unfair," said Jeane Johnston who got sticker shock with her May PGW bill. "I got a text message saying that my current billing cycle had been generated and that my outstanding balance was $3,217.81."

She contacted the Troubleshooters after seeing our story on Wednesday and realized she was not alone.

It turns out Johnston was charged $2,842.05 for the Weather Normalization Adjustment.

Johnston called PGW.

"They reassured me that there is no mistake with the bill," Johnston said.

And while Johnston was charged nearly $3,000 her neighbor Carol Nigro's charge was a lot less even though she lives on the same block in a nearly identical home.

"It's about 30% of the total bill but nothing like what she has," said Nigro.

Meantime, Johnston told us when she called PGW, she was told:

"The only thing we can do is put you on a payment plan," she said.

But there was a reversal by PGW on Thursday after the Troubleshooters inquiry. PGW is now expressing regret and says there will be a fix.

FULL PGW STATEMENT:

PGW President & CEO Seth Shapiro today issued the following statement in response to PGW's May Weather Normalization Charges:"For over two decades, PGW has had a Weather Normalization Adjustment (WNA) as a component of our rates. Utilities use this adjustment to help make customer heating bills more predictable and stable. The WNA adds a charge when weather is abnormally warm, and credits a customer when weather is abnormally cold.Historically, the WNA has performed as intended. For several billing cycles in June, however, the equation that calculates the WNA for last month's usage resulted in unusually large WNA charges to a large segment of customers. While the equation performed as designed, it produced an effect which is not what is intended and is unfair to our customers.As a company, we do not believe it is fair for our customers to be impacted by the significant increase of this monthly charge, particularly as many households confront financial strain in this current economic environment. So, while all of the revenue was billed properly, and in accordance with our Gas Service Tariff, we are uncomfortable with the resulting impact.Therefore, today PGW filed a petition with the Public Utility Commission to reverse the WNA charges for the month of May 2022. If granted, the credits would appear on customers' July or August bills. We encourage customers to sign up for PGW MyAccount (pgworks.com) to view their bills online and track the credit on upcoming bills.Customers can also be assured that PGW is diligently seeking a longer-term solution to prevent this highly unusual circumstance from repeating in the future.We regret the disruption this has caused our customers and realize how quickly news cycles accelerate so we appreciate our customers' patience while we worked quickly to uncover the best method to respond to the issue in the right way.We aim to get it right every time and appreciate your trust in our ability to serve you. Thank you."