St. Petersburg, FL -- "Ridiculous." That's how some Duke Energy customers describe a refund the power company says it will be crediting on next month's bill.
The payback follows complaints that a delay last month pushed some customers into paying at a higher rate. But the refund may not even come close to what customers were hoping for.
"I feel like I'm being taken advantage of," said Alexis Morales, a Duke customer.
Like so many Duke Energy customers, Morales was blown away by her most recent bill: more than $800 for a simple two-bedroom apartment.
"I've called and asked and they said, 'Because it's hot.' But I've lived in Florida for many, many years, and my bill has never been that high with other companies," she said.
The bill also seemed high, because it was for two months of service.
Alexis, like others, appeared to be a victim of Duke's so-called "re-routing." It's a billing delay that, in some cases, pushed customers into a higher usage category.
Beyond 1,000 kilowatts per hour, a rate of $13.70 rather than $11.34.
"First, we apologize to our customers," said Nicole LeBeau, a Duke Energy spokesperson.
Under pressure from customers, lawmakers, and the media, Duke has promised to refund the overage. But just for the overage.
"On an average, you're looking at about (a refund of) $5.62," said LeBeau.
And when customers heard the amount, folks like Alexis Morales literally laughed.
"Out of $800? Yeah, that's crazy," said Morales.
In fairness, the reason the rebate may seem so small compared a bloated bill is because customers still have to pay for the power they used, and the bill may seem considerably bigger, because of more days being billed for.
You still have to pay for the power you used.
But if that delay also pushed you into the higher rate category, you'll be refunded the difference; Not the full amount, just the difference.
"Regardless, it's due to our reroute," said LeBeau, "and we want to make it right for them."
In some cases, your next bill may feel a bit lower -- refund or not -- since you may have already paid for a few extra days on your last bill.
Customers like Alexis sure hope so, but she's skeptical.
"I'm sure there'll be some other new charge, some other new thing, some other excuse for me to have a really high bill," she said.
Adding insult to injury in Alexis' case, she says she not only paid the $800 -- thanks to a loan from her grandmother -- but that Duke then turned off her electricity yesterday anyways.
When she called, she says they acknowledged it was a mistake.
Duke Energy has set up additional call center representatives specifically to take affected customer's questions about this. You can call (800) 700-8744 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.