HOUSTON — When Sheila Case contacted KHOU 11 News, she was frustrated and short a lot of money.
In early January, Case sat down to pay her electricity bill. She pays bills online through the bill pay option with her credit union.
“Somehow or another I inadvertently didn’t pay attention where that darn decimal point was,” she said.
Instead of paying the $85.15 she owed, Case accidentally typed in $8,515.
The amount was processed, and a few days later, she realized her mistake.
“My thoughts are you either laugh or you cry, and I’ve already cried and that didn’t do it either,” Case said.
She contacted her credit union and was told to contact her utility provider. She contacted Entergy, her provider, and was told that the overpayment would be credited to her account.
“My husband and I were very vocal here in the living room saying 'absolutely not that’s not acceptable,'” she said. “I may not even be alive by that point (of using all the credit), so no, you can’t keep my money.”
A handful of phone calls later, Case said she was told a check would arrive in two to four weeks. But two months later, there was still no check.
So, she sent KHOU 11 an email and consumer advocate reporter Tiffany Craig drove up to Conroe to help the retired teacher.
“I’m not making that decimal point mistake again,” she said.
“You know this could have happened to anybody," Craig said.
KHOU 11 reached out to Entergy on her behalf and explained what happened. We were told that the utility company would look into the mistake.
While we waited to hear back, we contacted Dan Parsons with the Better Business Bureau. He's surprised that the large mistake wasn’t caught by the bank or the utility company.
“There should be enough checks and balances to go 'wait a minute, here’s a regular customer.' The system should flag it and go 'wait a minute this is a mistake,'” he said.
The next day, we got this response from Entergy:
“When a customer overpays, a credit is automatically applied to their account. In most cases, customers use the credit to offset their next bill. However, in cases where there is a large credit due to overpayment, customers can request a check refund by calling 1-800-ENTERGY. Once a request is made, an investigation is opened, and if approved, the refund check is processed and then mailed to the customer. Because of the time it takes to review and process the request, generally, checks are not issued for refunds on accounts except for substantial overpayments not likely to clear within a month and for refunds on overpayments of final accounts.
"Entergy Texas spoke with the customer Wednesday evening to let them know that we reviewed their request and issued a refund. We apologized to the customer for the length of time this investigation took. Entergy Texas strives to deliver superior customer service, and we’re sorry this wasn’t resolved sooner.”
Two weeks after KHOU 11 contacted Entergy, Case got her refund. She snapped a picture with the check before depositing it.
The experience taught the retired teacher a valuable lesson.
“When I send out a bill now, I definitely look and make sure it is exactly what is showing up on that bill before I hit submit,” she said.
If you’re ever in a similar situation and you can’t get the case resolved, contact the Public Utility Commission of Texas. You can go online and file a complaint at this link or call 1-888-782-8477. They will open an investigation and help get your money back.