Lakeland Electric, Tell Me You’re Not Stealing from Your Customers and Citizens and Old Ladies and Children

Let’s work through a hypothetical, shall we.

Say a city-owned power plant uses a graduated billing structure in which you are charged each month based on how much power you use during each monthly billing cycle. That means the more you use, the higher the rate you are charged. And the city-owned power plant applies that highest rate to all your power, not just the last few hundred kilowatt hours. So if you use, say, 1,500 kilowatt hours, you pay for all of your 1,500 kilowatt hours during that billing cycle at a rate higher than someone who uses 900. Now, say that entire system is built on a month-long billing cycle, but because of various snafus, the city-owned power plant arbitrarily and without warning extends that billing cycle to up to 41 days. And say that extension causes you to use more power and thus pay for all of your power for the cycle at a higher rate than you normally pay. And finally, say the city-owned power company is well aware of this snafu and the extra charges and has no plan to do anything about it. Let’s say all that is true. What do you call that?

Uhhhh, theft?

Because I’m a dirty blogger, and I have no standards, I’m going to publish first and ask Lakeland Electric to tell me this isn’t what happened in the giant billing snafu. Because if it is, as several sources are telling me, this is abysmal a performance by any government or business on a matter of principle as I’ve ever encountered. And I’m generally not a big Lakeland Electric critic.

The entire point of a graduated rate is to measure during a set period of time. If that time period is fluid and unpredictable, it becomes a license to steal.

Rick Rousos sort of hinted at this in a Ledger story, but didn’t really explain it.

Lakeland Electric says that, aside from the extra money charged to the 63,000 for the extra days, only one additional charge is in some of those bills. That’s the charge of up to $2.50 for customers who used more than either 1,000 or 1,500 kilowatt hours and normally don’t.

Now, I don’t know where that $2.50 comes from, but my various calculations put the extra money extracted from customers at anywhere from $5-$12, based on how much power is used, and which power thresholds they cross. It is difficult to nail down amounts precisely because we’re dealing with baselines that aren’t constant. But clearly, if I understand this correctly, LE is reaching into people’s pocket and pulling out at least $5 because of its own incompetence in billing.

I have to apologize. At first, I tuned out the Lakeland Electric billing scandal. It was complicated; LE tends to get criticized because it’s an easy goverrnment target that has to turn over public records; and, frankly, I figured it wasn’t that big of a deal. So I got billed at 39 days rather than a month. It’s annoying to get a larger bill, but I did use the electricity, and I had a longer time between bills. Pretty small beer as scandals go. But that was before I grasped that LE charges customers at a graduated rate. If LE can’t ensure that its billing periods are constant, it needs to charge at a flat, static rate. Honestly, other than politics, what’s to stop LE from arbitrarily extending the billing period to three months and ensuring that everyone pays for their power at the highest rate?

I could forgive all of this if LE had a plan to fix it – say a $7 credit on everyone’s next bill. But I’m told that people calling LE about this are running into a wall of nothing. There is no plan to do anything with this ill gotten money but add it to the bottom line. Again, tell me this is wrong, LE, because I want to defend you. You are the engine that makes this city go. You pay for its parks; you pay for the our quality of life in many ways.

Say it ain’t so.

26 thoughts on “Lakeland Electric, Tell Me You’re Not Stealing from Your Customers and Citizens and Old Ladies and Children

  1. My question…Is Lakeland Electric going to bill us for a 20 day cycle sometime in the future or is the official calendar year for Lakeland residents going to be 375 days?

  2. My question…Is Lakeland Electric going to bill us for a 20 day cycle sometime in the future or is the official calendar year for Lakeland residents going to be 375 days?

  3. On my way out, but I did the numbers when I received my bill. LE has three rates: 1-1000 kwh, 1001 to 1500 kwh, and 1501 kwh and above.

    The longer period pushed me into the higher rate. If that amount had been charged at the lower rate, I would have paid $2.56 less.

    That isn’t the issue for me as much as this debacle really hurts those who live paycheck to paycheck. This bill was 140% of what it would have been for a normal month. That could seriously affect those without the ready cash.

    LE could bypassed all this confusion by charging everyone at the 1001-1500 rate for all electricity used over 1000 kwh. (Or, if you normally use less than 1000 kwh, charge you at the 1-1000 kwh rate.) Or LE could have easily figured your KWH used per day and simply charged each person that amount times 30.

    Finally, I was told by LE customer service the next cycle will be shorter.

  4. On my way out, but I did the numbers when I received my bill. LE has three rates: 1-1000 kwh, 1001 to 1500 kwh, and 1501 kwh and above.

    The longer period pushed me into the higher rate. If that amount had been charged at the lower rate, I would have paid $2.56 less.

    That isn’t the issue for me as much as this debacle really hurts those who live paycheck to paycheck. This bill was 140% of what it would have been for a normal month. That could seriously affect those without the ready cash.

    LE could bypassed all this confusion by charging everyone at the 1001-1500 rate for all electricity used over 1000 kwh. (Or, if you normally use less than 1000 kwh, charge you at the 1-1000 kwh rate.) Or LE could have easily figured your KWH used per day and simply charged each person that amount times 30.

    Finally, I was told by LE customer service the next cycle will be shorter.

  5. I was told by Commissioner Higgins that I could call if I thought I might have been kicked into a higher billing tier because of the length of the billing cycle. I called, the matter was researched, and I was promised a credit on my next bill of a little more than 2 dollars in my case. I was satisfied with the response.

  6. I was told by Commissioner Higgins that I could call if I thought I might have been kicked into a higher billing tier because of the length of the billing cycle. I called, the matter was researched, and I was promised a credit on my next bill of a little more than 2 dollars in my case. I was satisfied with the response.

  7. I did the math as well and was billed at the three different rate levels. I requested a breakdown of all the electric charges, it works out correctly. It’s a hideously large amount, but correct. The first 1000 kwh was calculated at a rate of .04882, 1001-1500 was at .05382 and 1501+ was at .05882 My usage is high enough that even with the extra days, I wasn’t charged at a higher rate, I would have already been at that rate already.

    Since you were writing from a hypothetical point of view… If an electric customer fell into this worst case billing scenario and regularly used exactly 1000 kwh per month and was billed for 10 extra days, an extra 33%, that would put them at 1330 kwh, with 330 of those kwh being billed at an extra .005 (half a penny). That’s an extra charge of $1.65 that they would not normally pay.

    If you were usually right at 1500 kwh and had the extra 10 days or 33%, it would be 1995 kwh. That would mean an extra $2.48.

    If you are usually over 1501 kwh it doesn’t make any difference except that your bill is for a longer period, but is for electricity you did actually use and your next bill will be less days, so it works out over the 2 month period.

    But to continue the hypothetical, if every customer that was billed for the extra 10 days (3,048 customers according to the Ledger article) was billed at the highest overcharge of $2.48, then Lakeland Electric would be collecting an extra $7559.04 from those customers. The numbers are surely less, as not all customers use enough electric, even with the extra days, to bump into the highest tier charge.

    So let’s say every customer that had extra days (63,000 according to the Ledger article) bumped up to the next tier of where they would normally be charged.

    24,271 customers at 35 days were billed for an extra 17% of usage. If they usually used 1000 kwh, they’d be billed for an extra 170 kwh at a higher rate=$.85 24,271 customers at $.85 is $20,630.35
    If those same customers usually used 1500 kwh, when being billed for 17% more usage, 255 kwh would be at a higher rate than normal, resulting in an overcharge of $1.28 24,271 customers at $1.28 is $31,066.88

    Doing the same math for all of the customers with extra days in their cycle that may have resulted in part of their electric usage being charged at a higher than normal rate would look like this. Potentially $104,296.97!
    http://img30.imageshack.us/img30/1866/lepotentialovercharges.jpg

    That’s a lot of potential funds to Lakeland Electric. I thought there might be a cost savings to customers next month, by having fewer days in their billing cycle, they may drop down to a lower rate, but if a user was at exactly 1000 and dropped down to a lower usage, it doesn’t make a difference, anything at or below 1000 kwh is the same rate. For those at 1500, even with the longest billing cycle, the lowered percentage wouldn’t be enough to drop them into the 1000 kwh or lower rate.

    Maybe my math is wrong, maybe it isn’t. If you were billed for 35 days or more and use between 870 and 1500 kwh in a normal month, you fall into those calculations.

  8. I did the math as well and was billed at the three different rate levels. I requested a breakdown of all the electric charges, it works out correctly. It’s a hideously large amount, but correct. The first 1000 kwh was calculated at a rate of .04882, 1001-1500 was at .05382 and 1501+ was at .05882 My usage is high enough that even with the extra days, I wasn’t charged at a higher rate, I would have already been at that rate already.

    Since you were writing from a hypothetical point of view… If an electric customer fell into this worst case billing scenario and regularly used exactly 1000 kwh per month and was billed for 10 extra days, an extra 33%, that would put them at 1330 kwh, with 330 of those kwh being billed at an extra .005 (half a penny). That’s an extra charge of $1.65 that they would not normally pay.

    If you were usually right at 1500 kwh and had the extra 10 days or 33%, it would be 1995 kwh. That would mean an extra $2.48.

    If you are usually over 1501 kwh it doesn’t make any difference except that your bill is for a longer period, but is for electricity you did actually use and your next bill will be less days, so it works out over the 2 month period.

    But to continue the hypothetical, if every customer that was billed for the extra 10 days (3,048 customers according to the Ledger article) was billed at the highest overcharge of $2.48, then Lakeland Electric would be collecting an extra $7559.04 from those customers. The numbers are surely less, as not all customers use enough electric, even with the extra days, to bump into the highest tier charge.

    So let’s say every customer that had extra days (63,000 according to the Ledger article) bumped up to the next tier of where they would normally be charged.

    24,271 customers at 35 days were billed for an extra 17% of usage. If they usually used 1000 kwh, they’d be billed for an extra 170 kwh at a higher rate=$.85 24,271 customers at $.85 is $20,630.35
    If those same customers usually used 1500 kwh, when being billed for 17% more usage, 255 kwh would be at a higher rate than normal, resulting in an overcharge of $1.28 24,271 customers at $1.28 is $31,066.88

    Doing the same math for all of the customers with extra days in their cycle that may have resulted in part of their electric usage being charged at a higher than normal rate would look like this. Potentially $104,296.97!
    http://img30.imageshack.us/img30/1866/lepotentialovercharges.jpg

    That’s a lot of potential funds to Lakeland Electric. I thought there might be a cost savings to customers next month, by having fewer days in their billing cycle, they may drop down to a lower rate, but if a user was at exactly 1000 and dropped down to a lower usage, it doesn’t make a difference, anything at or below 1000 kwh is the same rate. For those at 1500, even with the longest billing cycle, the lowered percentage wouldn’t be enough to drop them into the 1000 kwh or lower rate.

    Maybe my math is wrong, maybe it isn’t. If you were billed for 35 days or more and use between 870 and 1500 kwh in a normal month, you fall into those calculations.

  9. Why do Lakeland customers continue every month allowing Lakeland Electric to get the best of them. Why not get the best of them and do two things good. Find energy saving products, like Heat Radiant Barrier, Solar Snap and wrap hot water heaters. Please see Orkin Regarding Heat Radiant Brriers.863-233-9902

  10. Why do Lakeland customers continue every month allowing Lakeland Electric to get the best of them. Why not get the best of them and do two things good. Find energy saving products, like Heat Radiant Barrier, Solar Snap and wrap hot water heaters. Please see Orkin Regarding Heat Radiant Brriers.863-233-9902

  11. My goodness! It’s been OK with lots of you folks for the City Commission to rip off the 2/3 of LE’s customers who live outside the City for all these years.

    But now that you’re feeling the pinch of the same sort of unsupportable and unfair policies it’s suddenly a big deal? And all over a one-month problem while we’ve been paying extra forever? Who would have thunk?

    I guess that confirms that where you stand depends on where you sit (live)!

  12. My goodness! It’s been OK with lots of you folks for the City Commission to rip off the 2/3 of LE’s customers who live outside the City for all these years.

    But now that you’re feeling the pinch of the same sort of unsupportable and unfair policies it’s suddenly a big deal? And all over a one-month problem while we’ve been paying extra forever? Who would have thunk?

    I guess that confirms that where you stand depends on where you sit (live)!

  13. This is just another example of one of the only legal monopolys left. It doesn’t matter where you live, there is only one provider of electric. They can do whatever they want at anytime and you can either like it or lump it. Most of the time they just guess at your bill by what you used at the same time last year and then when you find a discrepancy and let them know they’ll send someone out and half the time say “actually your right there was a mistake and you actually owe us more”. This is the same as them saying,” Oh yeah? We’ll teach you to threaten us. So what can you do. You could decide to live without it but then code enforcement is on your case or if you have kids DCF is on your case. So you have to buy from them. This is not capitalism, it is not democracy, more like marxist communism.

  14. This is just another example of one of the only legal monopolys left. It doesn’t matter where you live, there is only one provider of electric. They can do whatever they want at anytime and you can either like it or lump it. Most of the time they just guess at your bill by what you used at the same time last year and then when you find a discrepancy and let them know they’ll send someone out and half the time say “actually your right there was a mistake and you actually owe us more”. This is the same as them saying,” Oh yeah? We’ll teach you to threaten us. So what can you do. You could decide to live without it but then code enforcement is on your case or if you have kids DCF is on your case. So you have to buy from them. This is not capitalism, it is not democracy, more like marxist communism.

  15. I really think your article speaks the truth and as Chuck mentioned what about the folks that live paycheck to paycheck. It may be only a few bucks, but I’d like to add to my bottom line and not yours.

  16. I really think your article speaks the truth and as Chuck mentioned what about the folks that live paycheck to paycheck. It may be only a few bucks, but I’d like to add to my bottom line and not yours.

  17. This really comes down to a breakdown in communication. Lakeland Electric knew what the billing period would be as it reflected on billing statements emanating from their offices. Knowing this, a simple mail stuffer and post to their website would have quashed the entire matter. Billing everyone from their regular tier in the first place would have quashed the matter as well. Business 101 is not being implored and it seriously needs to be.

    It is good to hear some are receiving credits on their bill for over billing and others are being allotted more time to pay their bill than initially thought.

    For many though such as myself, the matter is still not over and proper credit has not been received as initially the credit and added billing time was not passed down to LE’s customer service employees.

    Lakeland Electric has the third lowest rates in the State of Florida yet is constantly being scrutinized over their business practices. If you are doing something well, most will not know you are doing anything at all. What can Lakeland Electric do to become the #1 lowest rates in the State of Florida and stay out of the media in a negative way?

  18. This really comes down to a breakdown in communication. Lakeland Electric knew what the billing period would be as it reflected on billing statements emanating from their offices. Knowing this, a simple mail stuffer and post to their website would have quashed the entire matter. Billing everyone from their regular tier in the first place would have quashed the matter as well. Business 101 is not being implored and it seriously needs to be.

    It is good to hear some are receiving credits on their bill for over billing and others are being allotted more time to pay their bill than initially thought.

    For many though such as myself, the matter is still not over and proper credit has not been received as initially the credit and added billing time was not passed down to LE’s customer service employees.

    Lakeland Electric has the third lowest rates in the State of Florida yet is constantly being scrutinized over their business practices. If you are doing something well, most will not know you are doing anything at all. What can Lakeland Electric do to become the #1 lowest rates in the State of Florida and stay out of the media in a negative way?

  19. Lakeland Electric charged me $541.00 for one month! my bills were usually between 300 and 330 dollars a month.
    i am a single mother of one and my rent is 800 a month so you tell me , is it right i am paying almost as much on my electric as my rent?
    i rarely have lights on, i hang dry clothes, ther eis no reason that my bill should be this big! when i looked on the bill it had a almost 300 dollar charge for “natural gas” why is this charge on here? i asked LE and they said its beacause they have to use natural gas to supply us with our electric. i want to move out of this city, I know a person who lives in tampa and has a 2 story house, pool….etc…and his bill was 158 dollars for one month.
    i am disgusted with LE and the sooner i get out of here the better!

  20. Lakeland Electric charged me $541.00 for one month! my bills were usually between 300 and 330 dollars a month.
    i am a single mother of one and my rent is 800 a month so you tell me , is it right i am paying almost as much on my electric as my rent?
    i rarely have lights on, i hang dry clothes, ther eis no reason that my bill should be this big! when i looked on the bill it had a almost 300 dollar charge for “natural gas” why is this charge on here? i asked LE and they said its beacause they have to use natural gas to supply us with our electric. i want to move out of this city, I know a person who lives in tampa and has a 2 story house, pool….etc…and his bill was 158 dollars for one month.
    i am disgusted with LE and the sooner i get out of here the better!

  21. Ok,,, I just paid $697.27 or roundit off to $700.00. This is an abuse,, i do not have any leak and they told me to get a plummer. i explain to them that i dont have any leak in my property and i check the water meter and it was normal on slow pace so how can they asummed i have a leak and overcharge me? I need help with this matter and i went to get help to women resource center and they couldnt help me niether becouse they dont have any funds. I couldnt pay my mortgage to pay the electric bill.

  22. Ok,,, I just paid $697.27 or roundit off to $700.00. This is an abuse,, i do not have any leak and they told me to get a plummer. i explain to them that i dont have any leak in my property and i check the water meter and it was normal on slow pace so how can they asummed i have a leak and overcharge me? I need help with this matter and i went to get help to women resource center and they couldnt help me niether becouse they dont have any funds. I couldnt pay my mortgage to pay the electric bill.

  23. Mayra:

    I without knowing your specific situation, it is very difficult to assertain exactly what is going on with your utility bill. Based on your comments it seems that your current bill is higher than normal. Does your bill indicate that your water usage was much higher or was it your electricity usage? If it was water then you may indeed have a leek that will not go away but a quick visit by the water department will assist in you knowing or having a very good idea of what is going on.

  24. Mayra:

    I without knowing your specific situation, it is very difficult to assertain exactly what is going on with your utility bill. Based on your comments it seems that your current bill is higher than normal. Does your bill indicate that your water usage was much higher or was it your electricity usage? If it was water then you may indeed have a leek that will not go away but a quick visit by the water department will assist in you knowing or having a very good idea of what is going on.

  25. Ok, what I don’t understand is how my bill is substantially higher this month as opposed to last month. Last month we used the air-conditioner far more. We rarely turned it on this month. We leave lights off most of the time. The reason we used hardly any a/c in the hottest month of the year is that we purchased high power fans that are energy efficient and only cost pennies per day to run. We have 2 and this keeps us from using the a/c most days!

    We were looking forward to seeing the savings on this month’s bill and instead got quite a shock! It’s showing on the bill that water is the same and only electric has gone up. How is that even possible?

    Computer usage and television usage is as it always is. I find this highly suspicious.

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