PARKVILLE, Md. (WJZ)– An announcement from Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) has some customers outraged. Tens of thousands of people who lost power during Hurricane Irene may be charged for more power than they used.

Wiejia Jiang explains.

When Hurricane Irene ripped through Maryland, her wrath knocked out power to an unprecedented number of BGE customers.

With 750,000 in the dark, nearly every staff member was on storm duty, including meter readers. They did not collect usage levels for 150,000 customers who are getting estimated bills this month.

“It upset me because we were without power for seven days,” BGE customer Rebecca Snowden said. “How can you estimate a bill when we didn’t have anything for seven days?”

BGE says they use historical data to figure out how much a house typically uses that time of year.

But for Snowden and many of her Parkville neighbors who didn’t have power for a week, that’s not enough.

“If I get a service, I pay for it at the time of service,” she said. “If I don’t get it, I don’t pay for it.”

BGE is sending crews to every household to take an actual reading. If you used less than what you were billed for, you’ll get that money back in your next statement.

“There’s always the possibility the estimate could be higher or lower that your actual usage,” BGE spokeswoman Linda Foy said.

Customers like Joann Eick want to know why meter readers were pulled at all.

“A meter reader does exactly that,” Eick said. “I don’t think a meter reader can fix an electrical power outage problem. They’re not trained or designed to do that, so I don’t know why they couldn’t have come out.”

“We need them out in the field, sitting by down wires and keeping our customers and others safe,” Foy said.

Though inconvenient for some now, BGE says they needed the help because in a storm this severe, safety is always the priority.

Comments (38)
  1. Alfred Baker says:

    Lazy BGE Employees. The U.S. Government and the American People want job growth. How about actual meter readers instead of a “historical estimate”. What happens if its hot this year and cool next year? We could have a warm winter this year and our bills be higher or “historical estimate”. The residents of Maryland want modern technology and readings and not something from 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 etc.

  2. David Harrington says:

    Again, BGE has its finger on the pulse of the consumer. Outstanding servise as usual BGE. Hopefully my sarcasm is coming through on this post.

  3. Dorothy Clements says:

    Im so glad to see our money put to good use by lining some fatcat CEO’s pocket while the rest of us are wondering how we are going to put food on the table! BGE needs to be investigated for customer abuse!

    1. me says:

      You’re worried about putting food on the table? You got enough money for a friggan computer and internet service though don’t you …

    2. Joe Marylander says:

      Yea, well you better go back to when then Governor Parris Glendenning sold every Marylander down the river! Which leads to another issue, how many years has it been now since BGE has enjoyed unprecedented utility price hikes!!
      Where are those improvements BGE? You justified those extreme price hikes on that you needed to make improvements. Every time the wind puffs in my neighborhood the power goes out and this was long before Irene.
      And I hope our monthly service charges are PRO know that part of the bill that has nothing to do with the amount of electricity or gas usage but for merely having your lines hooked to my house. That fee should rightfully be only for three weeks of service since most of us including myself went 7 days without services. Yes this is in addition to no electricity charges.
      For the amount of money you are spending on Public Relations could go back into savings for the custoimer.

  4. Leah says:

    While I understand the mentality that meter readers were best used in a different capacity, such as sitting at down wires to ensure public safety. I have to wonder why it was necessary for 3 or 4 BGE employees to sit at ONE location? Meanwhile, I had energized wires (mine and my neighbors) laying in my yard and on my front porch, yet I couldn’t get ANYONE from BGE to come out even after making hourly phone calls over the course of 31 hours. Not only were the wires laying in my yard and on my porch, but they were also laying across the road. I babysat these wires so that no kids in the neighborhood would play with them. When I complained about having to sit outside and make sure no children were injured, one BGE employee told me that it wasn’t my job to do that so maybe I shouldn’t and then I wouldn’t be so stressed out. On another phone call when I told a different BGE employee that I would be the star witness for anyone who had a family member killed because of their negligence, I was told that’s fine, we have good lawyers. I had to resort to driving around my neighborhood until I found a bucket truck and I explained the situation to the driver and he said he would come out and check the wires to see if they were truly energized. He followed me to my house and VERIFIED that the wires were energized and made the necessary repairs. I did have a BGE employee come to my house about 5 hours after the wires were knocked down…he said, they are definitely live wires and then HE LEFT!!

    1. Larry says:

      Hopefully this never happens again, but if it does get the employee’s badge number and the call then 911 and report the downed live wire. Downed power lines are deadly and it IS a 911 emergency. The office personnel and meter readers are given a one day course at our Arlington training facility to enable them to identify downed wires and keep the public safe. ANY employee who says it is not his job WILL BE TERMINATED! If the wires are identified as cable or phone lines, there will not be anyone posted because they do not carry enough voltage to harm anyone.

  5. Brad Brown says:

    Personally, I think this story has just been blown out of proportion! BGE has historically processed estimated meter readings because of the inability to read each meter in their service area. However, they also ensure that the following month a meter reader goes to your home and records an actual reading. For the people that are upset about the policies of BGE, they need to educate themselves on the terms and conditions they were provided.

    As for Hurricane Irene, those employees may have been pulled to man telephones or handle other duties that were necessary at the time. Let’s face it people… Hurricane Irene sucked, but even though BGE has a bad history with Central Marylanders, lets cut them some slack okay?

    And before anyone asks, I do not work for BGE.

    1. sure you're not says:


    2. Weylin Tuathal says:

      All it shows is incompetence in the management levels of BGE that they cannot employ enough manpower to be able to handle a situation such as this. On top of the fact they knew days/week previous, why were they not more prepared?

    3. Really? says:

      why dont you stfu.And lets see if you still feel this way once YOUR bill comes in the mail.

  6. Ashley says:

    People have nothing better to do with their lives or time than to complain. Seriously people, you’ll be credited the money back when the meters are read. Would you rather not get a bill at all this month and then get a $300+ bill when they can come out to read the meters?? As for the people who complain about the customer service, put yourselves in their shoes. How would you like to receive 1,000+ calls a day acting like you shut off people’s power for no reason. Guys were working non-stop to restore your power, without seeing their families or having a home cooked meal. The least you can do is THANK them for the hard work they put in rather than being greedy and selfish because you were inconvenienced for a few days. Get over yourselves.

    1. Leah says:

      I haven’t seen one complaint about the guys who were out working the streets, the complaints have been about the administrative end of things. So jump off the bandwagon.

    2. I never say stuff like this, but seriously.... says:

      eh…that’s their job, and if they are too emotionally fragile to cope with it, they should find something more suitable, like a plant nursery or mowing lawns. You know,something that doesn’t require a them to have manners or speak in a respectful way. Why, exactly, am I supposed to feel sorry for a person who takes a job knowing that they are in the hot seat for a majority of their day, then wallows in self pity. Please.

      OH, I know, maybe the lady who was told not to look out for the children in her neighborhood should THANK that hard working BGE sissy for her lack of compassion. Ooooooo-kaaaaayyy.

  7. wow says:

    Thanks WJZ for making BGE look bad when this is not even a problem… You will be credited your money in your next paycheck relax people!

    1. wow says:

      The point is you will get your money back if there was any overcharge when the meter reader gets out and check the meter on your next bill… So stop complaining

  8. jojgojfod says:

    Bad news gets hits… That is why WJZ puts up bad news so there would be more comments… The title makes this story seem worse then it actually is….

  9. Harold says:

    You can’t charge customers for something they ddn’t use. If they were without power for a week, then clearly they weren’t using any, ergo, can’t be charged. This is just basic business, not anything complicated. BGE should just read the meters and charge what the actual usage was, anything else is defrauding their customers.

  10. Steve says:

    Evidently you folks have never had a storm before. Irene was a minor storm compared to real hurricanes. Your problem is you haven’t seen a real hurricane before. Power was out for 7 days? Get away from big cities in the Midwest and only 7 days with no heat in the winter would nice. It happens often and estimated bills after winter storms are routine.

    So now you want to complain that they will estimate your bill and correct it next month? GET A LIFE!!!

    1. Really? says:

      Right,and after the estimated bill comes which will probally be hundreds of dollars you STILL HAVE TO PAY IT in order to keep service until the next meter reading.People are going through enough,gas prices are high,groceries cost an arm & a leg…Some people need their bills to come in moderation,not in the form of a lump sum that your obligated to pay.So speak for yourself.BGE knows damn well that they have the money to pay their employees from the overtime worked during Irene,instead they want US to pay for it by b.s-ing our bills to cover the tab then “correcting the charges” next time.How do I know what the correct charge should be,I’m sure they’ll use fraudulent readings then make us believe that they’re doing us a favor next month by knocking off some change

  11. Mike says:

    Bury the power lines and stop gouging the customers!!

  12. Corey says:

    “How can you estimate a bill when we didn’t have anything for seven days?”

    I’m thinking 3rd grade math would prevail here…they know the average power you normally use each day….so the multiply that by 23 instead of 30 to account for 7 days with no power and there is a pretty accurate estimate of the power you used.

    The next month when they actually read the meter, it may be +/- a few kilowatts, then you pay that bill and you’re back to normal. Much crying over nothing if you ask me.

    1. Dan says:

      Sadly, Corey, I don’t think BGE does that. I think they could do a much better job at making estimates than they do. For example, gas consumption in winter is estimated based on number of days rather than degree days. They could also, offer to pay you a 1.5% interest on any amount they overcharge you for, which would encourage them to give better estimates, while not being onerous or unreasonable.

      That said, you are right. The title of this article implies BGE is somehow cheating customers. If you end up overpaying your bill by $20 or $30 and getting it back next month, your total opportunity cost is maybe 13 cents. Hardly a matter get get outraged about.

  13. Vic says:

    We in South Louisiana are still paying and extra $10.00 a month for the 2005 and 2008 hurricanes. Get ready for ten years of extra charges as well.

  14. John says:

    In NY, the power companies are allowed to charge you for power you DO NOT use. If the winter is mild and you use less fuel, they just tack a few hundred bucks onto each bill and call it a “weather adjustment”.

    So I would just crank up the heat and leave the windows open. If you’re gonna charge me for it, I’m gonna use it; that simple.

  15. willie says:

    They’re all pricks!

    1. truman says:

      WJZ and the rest of the media do nothing but make an issue about something thats not even a story. Bge has always estimated readings when needed, nothing new. you are not going to pay for something you did not use. Oh wait! unless its your cable that you did not have during the same period.Ready, set,go start complaining about that.

  16. laurel says:

    A couple of years ago BGE was doing away with Meter Readers who were employee’s and hiring outside contractor’s. God forbid they had to save a dollar. They got lazier service that cost more in the long run too. So maybe not all the meter readers were true employee’s but outside contractors who are out for the all mighty dollar.
    I also agree with truman it has always been company policy to estimate.

  17. jim says:

    You folks had better not hollar to loud. If you have the new electronic meters that they can collect data just by driving by they just may spike your bill 10-15%. They can make your reading whatever they want with the push of a button. I have seen it demonstrated by the meterman himself when I got my new style meter. You are not going to beat them, just grin and bear it.

    1. Dan says:

      That makes no sense… Why bother having meters if the reading is separated from reality? What do you think would happen if you had an independent meter that proved their reading was bogus?

  18. Brian says:

    Yes, you will get your money back the following bill and eventually the cost of their clean up on future bills. That’s another racket they have going. Those line and distribution charges you pay when service is working should be in reserve for events like this. You won’t get the 30 day interest they will collect by holding your money either!!!

  19. Brandon says:

    I really think those of you that are worried about overpaying your electric bills are seriously over-reacting. I am a national grid customer and until probably 2000-2001, every other month we received “estimated” bills. Then, the following month we would have our meter read and get a bill based on the total actual usage for both months so therefore in the end it all washed out. This is the exact same principle being applied here. To me, I would rather have meter readers out helping keep people safe and have to pay a bit more on my next electric bill, than to be out and about and accidentally get electrocuted.

  20. Dan says:

    Get windmill or solar panels and SELL power to BGE. Or fugedaboutit.

    1. Dan says:

      Not a good plan… First off, you can’t sell power to BGE when your power is out. You can’t even run your windmill or solar power, because the grid tie inverter simply won’t work. Second, net sales of power to BGE is a money loser. You are much better off reducing your power consumption by 90% rather than selling power to BGE, since they pay very little for your power.

  21. Bill says:

    Lets face it the policy of risk managment that began in the early 90’s is only benefitting the company; managers on up. The customer has been second rate since then. This was the beginning of downsizing and affirmative action. The company and the stock value sucks. The company was more profitable and customer friendly before the implementation of such B.S. programs. The total lack of accountability destroyed BGE. Promotions based on race and education has ruined our utility! I hope the new company is watching what the lack of managment consideration has done for the citizens of Maryland.

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