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Utility sent Idaho couple wrong bill for 3 years

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[March 07, 2009]  HAYDEN, Idaho (AP) -- A utility has reimbursed a northern Idaho couple nearly $2,000 after sending them someone else's gas bill for more than three years.

DonutsAvista Corp. spokeswoman Debbie Simock said the company has also offered an apology to Don and Penny Fisher. "It was ridiculous," Don Fisher told the Coeur d'Alene Press. "Even in the hot months it was riding up and we were paying for it."

The Fishers said they built fires and bundled up but continued to get big gas bills for three years and three months. They said their inquiries to Avista didn't get results.

"Argue, argue, argue," the couple said.

They said they reported a fake gas leak in January to get a visit from a company representative, who discovered that meter readings in the subdivision had been crossed.

The Fishers said they had to skimp on three Christmases due to their nearly $500 in winter gas and electric bills.


"It was ridiculous," Don Fisher said. "We could not be using that much gas."

"We're very sorry that this happened," said Simock. "We're taking a look at our internal process to make sure this doesn't happen again."

Simock said the company didn't have a report of a gas leak at the home, but instead sent someone to check on problems with the meter after getting details of the problem.

The Fishers said one of their bills was for $238, while the neighbor who was paying their bill was charged $28.

"Everyone was wondering how they kept their house so warm," Don said. "And even they didn't know."

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Simock said that under Idaho Public Utilities Commission rules, Avista could bill the second customer for the last six months for energy used but not charged for.

But she said the company is not going to bill that customer.

"Because the error was our fault, we are not going to rebill the customer for six months," she said.

Spokane, Wash.-based Avista serves 121,000 electric and more than 93,000 natural gas customers in Idaho.

[Associated Press]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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