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After being billed wrong for 16 years, this Xcel customer's only getting a 2-year refund

Austin Todd was trying to save money. He didn't know he had been charged for the wrong meter for 16 years...and he's not even getting all his money back.

DENVER — No matter what Austin Todd did to save money, his Xcel Energy bills did not go down.  When he started looking into why, he realized Xcel owes him for a big-time mistake.

“For a couple of years, I felt frustrated because I’ve been trying to reduce my usage and I just couldn’t seem to get my bill to budge,” Todd said.

His reduced usage did not lead to reduced bills.

“That’s what finally led me to start looking a little bit more into my actual meter,” Todd said.

He lives in a townhome in Superior, with six gas meters mounted on the side of the end unit. Whenever he turned on or off the heat, the correct gas meter worked. It just wasn't the correct meter attached to his Xcel account.

“The meter number listed on my bill matched my neighbor’s meter," he said. “It’s been wrong since the construction of these townhomes, which they were basically built around the year 2000. So over two decades. I, myself, have lived here since 2006, so about 16 years," Todd added.

Xcel sent him a spreadsheet showing what he was billed compared to what he should have been billed. For instance, in January when everyone was getting sky high gas bills, he paid $241. The bill should have been $54.

And in December 2021, Todd paid $230 more than he should have paid.

“I was refunded $1,600 for two years. You can kind of extrapolate that out, I’m probably looking around $10,000 or so," he said.

He is supposed to be funded $1,600. Actually, the total is $1,555. He just hasn't seen the refund yet.

“I haven’t seen it fixed on a bill yet. I’m assuming that the end of this month, May’s bill will show a correctly assigned gas meter to my billing account,” Todd said.

When Xcel underbills someone, the company can charge the customer for the missing amount for the previous six months.

When Xcel overbills someone, the company is supposed to refund two years.

"It is what the Commission decided as far as the treatment years ago. It's something that the commission could look at some time in the future," Gene Camp, deputy director of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), said. “It is what's, I guess, defined as ‘just and reasonable’ since the Commission approved a tariff that allows that particular type of treatment for these billing errors.”

Camp explained that Xcel is required to keep at least three years' worth of electric billing records and four years of gas billing records.

So, the company does have more data to go beyond the two-year refund requirement if it wanted to.

“I’m going to speak with them and tell them I’m not agreeable to this," Todd said. "I would hope that they would have, even going back at least a decade or so.”

If Xcel wanted to seek payment from the unit owner who was being charged for Todd's meter, the company could seek six months in backpay. The math provided to Todd by Xcel shows that his neighbor paid $223 for the last six months but should have been charged $905. That means the neighbor could be billed $681.


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