ATLANTA — Tia Ballard said an Easter Day fire left her family without a home.
“People are running and crying. It was really scary,” she said.
She told Channel 2 investigative reporter Ashli Lincoln that she had no choice but to move into a new unit at the Icon Apartments in Avondale.
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While also moving her furniture, she said she also transferred her power bill to her new address.
Ballard said she was stunned the following month when receiving her next bill.
“When I saw the bill, I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is crazy! It went from $116 per month to a $500 bill,” Ballard said.
Ballard said she was a part of Georgia Power’s “FlatBill” program. Customers pay the same amount, every month for power.
She told Lincoln that she doesn’t understand why Georgia Power couldn’t adjust the bill to her previous rate, considering she was displaced by a fire.
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“I’m thinking this is crazy, what can I do about this?” she said.
Channel 2 Action News reached out to Georgia Power for a comment. In a statement, they said:
“The company strives to offer solutions that fit customer needs and help them manage their energy budget.
“We understand and appreciate Ms. Ballard’s situation and have worked with her. When Ms. Ballard contacted us last month with concerns about paying the balance due on her FlatBill contract along with current charges at her new location, Georgia Power worked to connect her with energy assistance agencies and were willing to setup payment arrangements. The account currently has a zero balance.”
The utility company said the FlatBill program has specific rules. It’s a 12-month program based on past and expected usage at a specific address.
Because the usage is based on a location, Georgia Power said that’s why bills cannot be transferred.
Liz Cole is with Georgia Watch, the state’s leading consumer advocacy organization. She said consumers should reconsider flat bill programs with any utility company.
She told Lincoln that often consumers are overpaying for bills during seasons when temperatures are mild.
Lincoln asked Cole if she thought consumers were saving money through these programs.
Cole said she doesn’t think these types of programs are designed to help the customer save money.
Cole suggests customers set alerts for excess usage and have a home energy audit to see if you need to take steps to lower your bill. She also suggested making your property energy efficient.
Georgia Power also offers a non-contract “Budget Billing” option.
Budget Billing works to average a customer’s bill across seasonal highs and lows but is not a guaranteed flat amount.
It adjusts up and down throughout the year with a true-up at year-end.
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We’re working to get answers from Georgia Power, for Channel 2 Action News at 5 p.m.
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