Legal question? ? ?

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This is essentially a legal question -- if there are any lawyers out there on alt.home.repair
I live in a six-unit coop apartment. About a year ago we converted our furnace from oil to natural gas. This required installation of a new gas meter.
Almost at once it was evident that we were being significantly under-billed for our gas service. It also became clear that the gas company's meter readings on the bill did not correspond to those on the meter itself. Our billings were wildly erratic. For instance, the billing for January, one of the coldest months on record, was half the billing for December, which was a relatively warm month.
We called, and then wrote the gas company, and each time we were assured all was right. We have had at least six contacts with the gas company over this issue.
We estimate that our gas heating costs for 2009 came in about one-third of what we were expecting -- and budgeting.
So my question is, what if this situation continues for several years, and then the gas company discovers a reading error and hits us for a bill for thousands of dollars?
What is our legal obligation under such a scenario?
I'm guessing that as a practical matter, the issue would be resolved through negotiated settlement.
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This is essentially a legal question -- if there are any lawyers out there on alt.home.repair
A
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Andy comments:
Try misc.legal.moderated Lots of lawyers there.....
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wrote:

Can't be much of lawyers if they're not getting paid.
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Red Green wrote:

as opposed to people paid to answer posts on alt.home.repair?
oh, wait, i haven't received my payments for a couple months. does anyone know who i contact for that?
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wrote:

Whad do ya means. Weez all gets a chek.
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wrote:

Lucky you. I just got a *bill* for alt.home.repair advice, not a check!
I did find out that 10% of lawyers graduate at the bottom of the class. Same with doctors and pet psychologist.
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Well the gas co estimated our building for 6 years then sent about a US$ 50,000.00 bill because they finally read it, they settled for 35,000.00 or the gas would have been shut off, Lawyers you pay extra , and for what.
Read your own meter, pay now what you know you owe. How far off is the reading now.
A new gas furnace can be 1/2 as much to run as a junker oil unit , or maybe more. And now gas is super cheap for us compared to a year ago and years ago, so, how far off is your reading from the meter, the bill amount isnt the issue its your accurate reading now to what is on the bill. Does reading say ACT for actual, or EST for estimate, its common for estimates every other month.
Simply call in your correct reading every month, I do it online. Set up an online account, I have many and am notified whan a reading is due and its all done online in a few minutes.
If you dont pay whats owed on the bill you will pay interest, and they will want a big big security deposit. If bill is to low pay what you know you owe or they will stick you with interest.
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How could they possibly "stick us for interest" when we pay the amount they bill us, and, further, when we have repeatedly told them that they are under-billing us? I don't think there's a court in the land that would uphold interest charges for incorrect billings by the gas company.
We are, however, putting money into escrow if they do try to hit us for a delayed billing, as they did with you.
wrote:

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They can and will if its under read, Read it yourself and get them the reading, quit relying on the new meter system that doesnt work, its your bill, you use it.
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mail the readings in. At least you can remove *that* variable.
Be sure you read the right meter.
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Not a legal answer, but are you sure that some of the erroneous readings aren't estimated readings (maybe every other month)? If they don't have usage history on your building, that may cause it. If it is an estimated usage, it should be noted on your bill.
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There's no question that the meter readings differ consistently from the ones reported on the bill.
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Ray wrote:

Often gas co. uses estimated reading and once in a while meter is read and bill will be adjusted. They do that out at my cabin. At the end I end up paying what I owe or vice versa. Don't you have an option to read the meter yourself and submit the reading to the gas co.? Estimate reading works pretty good after a year which time they know the consumption pattern. Any how if you over paid, at the end you'll get credit. If under paid, you may have to pay larger than usual amount to catch up. No matter wht, I think gas co. has upper hand. Legally what can you do?
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Ray wrote:

Read on the same date? Electronically or on site?
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The gas company sends a truck out, parks in our driveway, and reads all meters in the building electronically.
I read our building meter on the same date.
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On Fri, 19 Feb 2010 16:13:51 -0500, "Ray"

We got a new meter for the gas more than a year ago. A wireless transmitting unit. The truck just drives by.
What I understand is these newer units are more accurate and they are more precise, regarding actual cubic feet of gas used. IOW, my reading may be as accurate?
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Ray wrote:

I don't know what kind of gadget is used to read meters electronically, but...is it possible there is some interference or obstacle that would cause the reader to pick up the signal for the wrong meter?
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snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net wrote: ...

Highly unlikely; these devices use a communications protocol including ID, etc., that makes confusion between devices themselves unlikely.
As others noted, it's possible there's a mixup in the records/database/elsewhere about who's meter is whose, of course. (Although you'd think somebody w/ 3X their normal usage to compensate for the under-usage of OP would also be complaining if were that simple a problem.)
Hard to believe a utility company would fail to check up pretty seriously w/ a customer who's complaining there billings are _significantly_ low... :)
I'd as others have mentioned suggest the OP escalate the discussion up the food chain and follow up w/ written correspondence rather than just the phone call if can't receive actual satisfaction or still think is real cause for concern.
Also as others noted there's the uncertainty in what OP is reporting vis a vis what the billing statement actually is stating.
And, of course, the other issue of not only did they upgrade the boiler they switched from oil to gas -- we have no information on whether the rate conversion comparison OP is expecting is based on correct assumptions of $/therm for each fuel and relative efficiencies, etc., etc., etc., ...
NG is typically cheaper than oil in most markets but no indications here of any of that.
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Not an attorney. But, my utiltiy company used to let you read and report your own meter reading every other month or so. I remember, when I was a teen, it was a lot of fun to read the gas meter, and mail in the form.
My bill has the "meter number" which is inside the glass, by the reading dials. Perhaps you're reading the wrong meter? Take your bill, in hand, and go check the numbers. That might be the confusion.
You mentioned six units in your place?
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