Texas woman sues electricity provider over $9,000 bill after outages

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I am still pissed about what happened in Texas last week. And I am still recovering from the stress of it. I was able to relieve some of my stress by dragging Ted Cruz’s ass all over Twitter but I still feel a need to do something more. So tomorrow I will be taking a deputy registrar class to register people to vote. In the meantime, I am trying to keep it together as I watch more Texans get laden with unfair consequences of our failing government and systems. Many Texans, after experiencing energy and water shortages during an unprecedented statewide freeze, are now being faced with astronomical energy price hikes resulting in electric bills in the thousands.

The good news is some are pushing back and are suing both the power grid operators ERCOT and Entergy and electricity providers such as Griddy for loss of life, property and ridiculously high electric bills. Texas family the Pinedas lost their 11 year old son from hypothermia and are suing ERCOT and Entergy. Lisa Khoury, a Houston resident, has joined a class-action suit against Griddy for an outrageous $9000+ electric bill that she received. Below is more on the story from CBS News:

Consumer law experts say more such lawsuits are likely to come. But Texas’ deregulated electricity market, complete with what’s called variable-rate pricing, means that many of these claimants will have an uphill battle getting their bills discharged.

Lisa Khoury, a resident of Chambers County in Houston, filed a class-action suit Monday against her electricity provider, Griddy Energy. According to the suit, Khoury was charged $9,546 between February 1 and 19, an amount 40 times higher than her typical bill range of $200 to $250.

Khoury said Griddy pulled $1,200 from her bank account via an auto-pay system before she stopped payment through her bank, but she still owes over $8,000 for power that was intermittent, according to the complaint. Khoury and other class members of the suit are seeking $1 billion in monetary relief.

“Griddy charged Khoury in the middle of a disaster. She and her husband mostly were without power in their home from Wednesday, February 17, 2021, to Thursday, February 18, 2021. At the same time, Khoury hosted her parents and in-laws, who are in their 80s, during the storm. Even then, she continued to minimize any power usage because of the high prices,” the complaint reads.

Khoury lawyer Derek Potts, national managing partner of the Potts Law Firm, said Griddy’s billing runs afoul of Texas’ consumer protection laws — and that thousands of electricity users are likely affected.

Griddy said the lawsuit was “meritless” in a statement given to the Dallas Morning News. The electricity provider did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CBS News. On its website, the company states it does not profit from high power prices and blamed the Public Utility Commission of Texas for last weekend’s astronomical hikes.

[From CBS News]

I am one of the lucky ones as my electricity is included in my rent but some of these Texans are not so lucky. However these bills are criminal. That Griddy has boldly stated that these lawsuits are unfounded is ridiculous. Not only did their systems fail their customers but it is insane that customers are being charged for days that they didn’t even have power. It is time that elected officials and these criminal enterprises we call corporations be held to account. No Texan should have lost friends and family members and no company should have been made richer off our suffering.

I do hope that the judge that this lawsuit is brought before will see the unfairness and criminality behind this. The grid operators knew for the last decade that the crisis was a possibility but failed to upgrade the system, the electricity providers hiked costs, and the elected representatives either ignored or aided in this disaster. I hope Lisa Khoury and the family of Christian Pineda win their lawsuits. I also hope there will be many more lawsuits. Whatever gains those energy companies acquired during this crisis should be lost.

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33 Responses to “Texas woman sues electricity provider over $9,000 bill after outages”

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  1. LaUnicaAngelina says:

    Yep. I’m still mentally recovering from last week and it’s been hard. My heart breaks for those who lost loved ones. The kids… it’s too much to think about. Our representatives and ERCOT are passing the blame wherever they want but they have blood on their hands.

    The audacity of Griddy calling the lawsuit “meritless!” I have a different electric provider and fixed rate contract and so far, no surprises.

  2. Escondista says:

    They signed a contract accepting this risk and griddy did warn their customers in advance so I worry about what the judge will decide. In the end, no customer could understand the real risk because nobody envisioned the entire grid of Texas would fail like this. They also shouldn’t be responsible for the price of that failure and nobody should be priced out of life sustaining heat in 2021. As a Texan, I would like to not be a Texan after this.

    • Teresa says:

      I so agree that it will be a hard case but I wish them and every Texan a huge amount of luck in overturning these bills. It is absolutely pathetic that Texas would not only willingly kill their own people but then turn around and demand they say thank you for it. I feel bad the state is so badly gerrymandered because it seems most people there are appalled by this behavior (save the governor, some mayor’s, and a few other outspoken heinous men).

      • MinasAunt says:

        I recently moved out of the Houston area and I am horrified about what’s happened. Yesterday, I got a text notice from my old MUD (municipal utility district–they are in charge of water and sewage) advising me to take my account off of autopay so this horror will apparently continue. I very much doubt that people will be successful in suing any of the utilities, including ERCOT since politicians have insulated them very well. The old adage of caveat emptor is very much alive in Texas and unfortunately, has been sold to people as some sort of “freedom and individuality” thing. The politicians who created this mess should suffer for it, but they probably won’t.

  3. Lady Luna says:

    It’s awful that these people want to profit from this. I do hope that Texans stand up to them and fight back!

  4. Andrew’s Nemesis says:

    I also read about a veteran whose entire life savings were wiped out – some $17,000 – by Griddy, who emptied his bank account. I hope they get their arses handed to them.

  5. Lauren says:

    What they are doing is criminal and so, so disgusting.

  6. Merricat says:

    Results of deregulation.

    • Wiglet Watcher says:

      Right. Somewhere they built up the idea of a republic of Texas, slipped in all this deregulation and made bank off the suffering and lives of constituents. It’s so clear most TX elected officials Are not acting in the best interest of the voters.

    • Tom says:

      Profiting from misery is disgusting. In this case, it might be legal.

      When people take risks, they can succeed or fail. Deregulation was a risk. It failed.

  7. MinxyMeow says:

    ERCOT and the whole system needs to be taken down. The predation of people already struggling through a pandemic is revolting.

  8. SarahCS says:

    I completely understand variable rate plans, what I don’t get is how there can’t be an upper cap. How is that legal? Corporations have way too much power and this needs to change, the elected officials need to actually serve ALL the people who elected them, not just the mega-donors who run these businesses.

    • Merricat says:

      It is legal because there are no regulations. Texas has its own grid, separate from the rest of the country when it comes to power, because they make so much on their own. There are no government regulations because Texas government chose to privatize as a way to offer cheaper prices to customers while making big money for investors. To keep costs low, the private company(ies) chose not to spend the money to make their system(s) safe from extreme cold, despite what happened in 2011. Because the grid is separate, they can’t lend or borrow power from other states. That’s basically what happened, I think.

    • rrabbit says:

      There is an upper cap, $9/KWh. Only, that cap is very high, over 100 times the normal rate. And, as many Texas homes are heated with electricity, customers on those variable rates can’t simply decide to not use electricity for a few days until things are, maybe, back to normal.

  9. Stacy Dresden says:

    Really sad and unacceptable

  10. Lemons says:

    The lawsuit definitely has merit. Can Griddy prove that they provided $9,000 worth of services to this one client? I highly doubt it. So even with hiked up rates, they were unable to provide the same or even higher quality of service that was essential during a winter storm. It was not a natural disaster, so they were just incompetent and unprepared.

    I’d love to see how the judge reasons with the electrical companies at this point.

  11. Leah says:

    How can they charge them such high prices for power usage when they used very little of it during the freeze?

    My electric company generates a bill every two months and it shows on it how much was used compared to other months. I think they need to get proof of just how much was used and compare that to previous bills because that size of an electric bill is outrageous.

    • caitlinsmom says:

      It’s not the amount used. It’s the wholesale unit cost of the power, which soared during the crisis. Demand was at an all time high, and supply was extremely low, so generators were able to sell the power to the consumer providers at a highly inflated rate. Some consumer providers offer variable rate plans, where the residential consumer cost reflects the wholesale market costs that the provider pays to the generator.

      It’s all because power generation and distribution is a for profit business in Texas. Check out Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, He also owns part of a an energy company- To say that they made out like bandits during this crisis would be a major understatement. The rich just keep getting richer, and the poor are stuck with the bill.

  12. caitlinsmom says:

    I live in Texas and am still trying to mentally recover from all that has happened. There is a horrible “let them eat cake” attitude towards the general public. We saw that from Rick Perry last week when he basically said the Texans were willing to go without power to keep Federal regulation out of Texas.

    No, we are not willing to freeze for capitalism. I for one believe that it’s time to join one of the Federal Grids and I have written to my House and Senate representatives asking them to introduce that legislation.

  13. Amy Too says:

    This seems so outrageous to me. When my utilities go out and don’t work for a day or more, or are really spotty, I will sometimes call the utility provider and ask for a credit on my account because I shouldn’t be paying for internet, for example, if I don’t have internet for 3 days. It will sometimes work with the electric or gas company too because they want to keep their customers and keep them happy. Sometimes, they’ll give a credit without even asking if service has been disrupted for a long time.

    If this lawsuit doesn’t get the results that people need, Texas needs to pass a bill that will have the state pay people’s bills for them from this storm. Because this is absolutely not okay, no matter how “legal” it might be. You can’t just drain someone’s bank account when the bill is 40x higher than it normally is. I’m wondering why they’re even collecting payment already. Aren’t you billed a month after? My bill that comes in January is for the electricity and gas I used in December. And it’s usually not due until February. How are they already collecting?

  14. chimes@midnight says:

    This is utterly reprehensible. I don’t even have words. There should not be a need for price gouging laws, which I understand don’t apply here because Texas gonna Texas, because PEOPLE SHOULD BE DECENT HUMAN BEINGS. No company *Needs* to collect billions of dollar from the same customers that are trying to limit their use and hoping they don’t freeze to death.

    Shame on these companies, shame on the people making the decisions in them. Shame on the politicians that allowed this, and are allowing this to happen.

  15. Veronica S. says:

    They’re going to argue it’s wholesale and therefore legal, which…f*ck any court that buys that argument. Nobody would be able to predict or understand something of that magnitude going down. A bill that’s a few hundred dollars, fine. A bill that’s in the thousands? Unacceptable, especially since it was their grid failure that was the problem. I’m tired of seeing people cape for corporations. Enough already. This situation was unacceptable top to bottom.

    • Emily says:

      Since energy is for profit, what’s stopping providers from creating false scarcity so they can charge more. If a judge says this bill is legal, it opens the door to companies profiting from emergencies they help facilitate.

  16. Emily says:

    My heart breaks reading about people losing children because of this. Necessities shouldn’t be provided by for profit corporations— it’s incompatible. COVID-19 plus disasters like this highlight how broken the United States’ extreme version of capitalism is. An 11 year old should never have died of hypothermia in a developed country full of billionaires.

  17. Jane Wilson says:

    That 2011 report recommending winterizing all Texas’ energy infrastructure should be the focus of the issue, not the ability of Texans to shoulder the burden of mistakes made by energy providers. No amount of fine print on customer contracts can hide the fact that the recommendations were not followed. Completely ignored…despite predictions that freezing weather conditions would happen again.
    Customers had the right to expect the companies would follow reasonable recommendations, especially those relating to catatrophic outcomes.
    They saved the money that should have been invested in customer safety. Bad decision. Now pay up.

    • BeanieBean says:

      Glad to learn about this, so maybe there’s hope for these people.

      • pottymouth pup says:

        that report was one of the reasons that Texas democrats tried to pass a bill to mandate weatherization of plants & maintanence so they would be prepared for extreme weather. The Republicans killed that bill in 2015. Power companies said it’s simply just too expensive to winterize appropriately and the TX GOP is happy to help them profit greatly from the exorbitant rates they charge due to a disaster like this because that just means more in donations to campaigns

  18. detritus says:

    Can someone explain why what seems to be a human rights violation is not getting more attention from American government?

    It’s absolutely disgusting a company would be like this. And disgusting that a government would allow their citizens to suffer to make a company money.

    • Merricat says:

      Because the federal government is not in control of the Texas power grid. It’s Texas state government that needs to answer.

  19. BeeCee says:

    The fact that these companies are even charging people at these point is INSANE.
    This is not the public’s fault that mother nature decided to lose her collective mind and cause this destruction. It’s the companies fault for not taking all weather precautions into factor when providing power for their customer’s. This just blows my mind.
    I feel for everyone affected by this. I hope these companies get the book thrown at them, and I hope that people won’t have to pay a cent for this.

  20. Julie says:

    We live under capitalism we have no rights

  21. Happy_fat_mama says:

    Oya, in future months, will your landlord raise your rent to make up for higher electricity bills now? Be careful eh? I am a tennent too, but mostly I am just a concerned reader.