Oncor faces class-action lawsuit over smart meters

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by JASON WHITELY / WFAA-TV

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

wfaa.com

Posted on March 26, 2010 at 11:01 PM

Updated Sunday, Mar 28 at 1:00 AM

DALLAS - An attorney has filed a class-action lawsuit against Oncor, accusing it of fraud, after hundreds of consumers have complained of expensive electric bills in recent months.

"I think that Oncor knows what's going on," said attorney Jason Berent.

He represents Robert and Jennifer Cordts.

Their electric bills have been stunning: $1,800 in January, more than $900 in February, then another $1,800 bill this week. It's almost $5,000 in charges in three months.

They had averaged $400 to $700 a month, Jennifer said.

"My husband's absolutely furious," she continued. "You know, I'm probably a little scared. These are big bills. We feel like the little guy!"

Cordts blames her Smart Meter. Their habits haven't changed, she said, but their usage has skyrocketed.

The couple's year-to-year comparisons show a difference in usage.

In January 2009, they used 6,989 kWh. Twelve months later, they were billed for 11,946 kWh - their highest usage ever.

Oncor said it had communication issues reading the Cordts meter in February but their usage was still 4,308 kWh higher than the year before.

Then in March 2009, the used 2,569 kWh. A year later, Oncor said, the couple consumed 8,816 kWh.

Friday, the Cordts sued Oncor for fraud as the lead plaintiffs.

In the lawsuit, their attorney Jason Berent, claims the utility "bamboozled" the public and "concealed" the "true reason" why bills have "increased."

Berent said he believes Oncor's side-by-side tests leave other questions unanswered.

"Oncor's not talking about the software system and they're not talking about the communication system," Berent added.

But the Dallas-based utility fired back over the lawsuit laced with biting language.

"The lawsuit is false and untrue," Chris Schein, Oncor spokesman, insisted. "[It's] full of hyperbole and misstatements and clearly written for media attention rather than facts of the case."

Oncor said the facts are its meters haven't been proved inaccurate.

The utility maintains cold weather and inefficient heating caused high bills, along with consumers paying too much per kilowatt hour for electricity.

Plus, the Public Utility Commission just launched an independent test of the meters, their software and communication system.

Right now, the Cordts lawsuit is only the second of its kind in the country.

A similar one is pending in California over smart meters and expensive electric bills.

The class-action suit here asks for actual damages rather than punitive.

A hearing has yet to be scheduled.

E-mail: jwhitely@wfaa.com

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