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UPDATE: News 5 contacts the company that regulates First Energy after reports of sky-high bills

First Energy file
Posted at 6:57 PM, Feb 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-22 19:00:51-05

News 5 reached out to First Energy when one customer contacted us to complain about a bill that was more than double its usual cost.

Jennifer Musick said her February energy bill was more than $600, and First Energy claimed it's due to higher because it's been a cold year.

Musick said she's not buying it.

"It is double what it was last year, and I'm sure the winter is a little bit colder, but to be double is very concerning," Musick said.

After we ran her story, we were flooded with messages from other residents with similar issues - electric bills costing anywhere from $400-600. 

We called the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, the state's utility regulator, to try and get to the bottom of it.

"One of the key roles we have is regarding having your meter read," said Matt Schilling, a spokesperson for PUCO.

First Energy said the meter reading is most likely what caused most of the prices to skyrocket. They did estimates from the month before, probably a little lower than they should have, and once they went out to get true readings the following month, they had to charge even more for the next bill. PUCO said that's pretty standard - to an extent.

"If your electric meter has been estimated two consecutive months, you have the right to request your utility company to come out and give you an actual meter reading at no charge, and in fact customers can do that twice per year," said Schilling.

Schilling also said First Energy's distributor rates are regulated. Just last year First Energy asked for a rate increase from PUCO and it was denied, but the generation portion of your bill isn't regulated.

"What that means for consumers is they can go out on the open market and select a company that will generate the power that the local distribution utility delivers to you," Schilling said.

That also means rates from your generator could be going up.

Schilling says customers can also read their own meter to cut down on the confusion about the estimates.

If you have further questions or concerns, contact PUCO at 1-800-686-PUCO (1-800-686-7826).