LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Hundreds of customers with Summit Utilities have been seeing their gas bill skyrocket leaving some Arkansans frustrated and demanding answers. Arkansas leaders like Attorney General Tim Griffin responded to the concern after his office received hundreds of complaints.
Griffin said his office has received 650 calls and emails since last week about Summit Utilities’ high energy bills. Griffin said on Facebook, he learned from some customers that they were overcharged due to an error in Summit’s billing system.
“One was they [Summit] took over from the CenterPoint so they are making a transition on their computer system, they were sending out some estimated bills and maybe that was the source of the different level of billing,” Griffin said.
Brian Bowen, the Senior Director of External Affairs for Summit Utilities said the data processing issue is no longer a problem.
“The data processing issue that some of our customers may have seen is a result of a transition from the acquisition of Summit and CenterPoint Energy, in November we began transitioning our billing from CenterPoint to Summit and on January the 11th, as part of our faze in, we went live with an estimated function,” Bowen said. “When we turned on that function, we had meter pools bucketed that were not transferred over into the new system. We caught that problem and have fixed that problem.”
Bowen added anyone that has received an estimated bill will receive within the next day or more a corrected bill. However, Bowen said most of their customers should see a “slight reduction in their bill” as he said there will be “about a 4% deviation.”
Bowen said the real issue that is impacting their customers’ bills is the cost of gas.
“The single contributing factor to the increase in customer bills is the cost of gas, the commodity pricing of the cost of gas has quadrupled recently across the nation,” Bowen said.
Bowen said Summit purchases gas and passes it on to the customer and there is no profit to be made from that to the company.
Bowen also said the reason why the price of gas has increased is because of outside entities.
“We have seen significant winter storms, so demand has gone up and the war in Ukraine has also had a significant impact on the price of gas,” Bowen said.
Griffin said that is something he has spoken to Summit Utilities CEO Kurt Adams about.
“Summit Utilities has talked about the recent increase in gas prices which I understand prices go up, prices go down. But the question is does that fully explain all of these increases and that is what I’m looking into,” Griffin said.
Griffin added that he talked with Summit about what they can do to further find reasons to why the increase was caused.
“I’m going to take 10 sample bills and look at the increase and get my staff on the phone with their staff at Summit and we are going to really dig down into the details and figure out bill by bill what explains the increase,” Griffin said.
Griffin said he is also digging into more questions regarding the increase in bills.
“At the end of the day, my focus is on why the elevation in bill amounts for some people and not for others because you would think if it’s merely a function of prices going up then everyone would have higher bills as a general matter and that’s not the case,” Griffin said.
Ricky Lindley said his bill for January is slightly above $200 dollars which he adds is more than his usual amount. He hopes the state further looks at the cause of the increase because it is affecting his wallet.
“I’m on social security disability and on a fixed income, I’m 58 years old and I would have never dreamed of seeing a gas bill more than my electric bill; it’s always been less,” Lindley said.
Bowen said other than customers turning down their meters to conserve energy, there are assistance programs customers can use to receive help in paying their bills.
Griffin said he will be having further conversations with Summit about the increase in people’s bills and they will be providing updates.