Estimated bills concern Empire customers

Customers concerned they may be over-paying

When Joshua Bard received a letter from Empire explaining his bill had been being estimated for the past five months without his knowledge, he was angry.

“I should’ve gotten a letter a long time ago saying, ‘Hey, we can’t read your meter. Fix it.’ You know, why wait 5 months to send a letter saying that we’ve been estimating for the last 5 months?,” asked Bard, a Joplin Empire Customer.

Bard is on level pay, but doesn’t understand why his meter hasn’t been checked.

“Nothing’s changed in my backyard. There’s no reason that they couldn’t, they couldn’t read it,” said Bard.

Empire estimates bills when meters are unable to be read due to inclement weather, short staffing, or when a meter may be obstructed or dangerous to get to.

From there, Empire explains, “Bills are estimated through an algorithm that generates based on the customer’s previous usage and weather.”

A customer can see if their bill is being estimated on the back of their statement, but Bard feels like that’s not transparent enough.

“You open it, you pay it, and you move on. You think, they’re doing their job. We’ll do ours and pay our bill, not to get a letter later on down the road saying ‘Hey, you still owe us money,'” said Bard.

Even after reaching out to customer service, Bard feels Empire is unfair to its customers.

“If they’re gonna broadcast that they’re gonna cut meter readers, and then turn around and send a letter saying their meter can’t read the meter, they should probably contact the customer a little sooner than 5 months later. Our community deserves a little bit better than this kind of stuff,” said Bard.

This is the second time Empire has opted to send us a written statement, saying officials were not present to answer our questions on camera.

Empire advises customers who feel their bill is inaccurate to reach out to customer service.