Consumers Hit With High Gas Bills

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Imagine paying a bill that goes from around $30 to more than $300 in less than a month.  That's what happened to several Atmos Energy customers in Columbus.

Hazel Davis was one of them.

"I thought it was unfair, I thought it was unfair and unjust, because I just couldn't see it," says Davis about what she considers an unexplained and drastic jump in her gas bill.

"Well in October 2008, the gas bill was $56 and something cents, in November the bill jumped to $207 and something cents and in December, the bill jumped to $442.03," explains Davis.

Davis says she then took what she thought was the right, next step.

"I called them immediately and they told me well, we'll do another reading but if the reading comes out to be the same you're still going to owe $442."

A customer service representative told me the exact same thing when I called after my own bill went from $39 in January to $330 in February.

We also had another reading, it showed nothing was wrong.

Part of my problem was a dirty filter that was causing my system to work a lot harder, but even after another meter reading, we realized, that wasn't the only problem.

"We did have some bills that were historically low for that period of time in December," says Atmos Energy Operations Supervisor Scott Bush.

"Consequently, when they were read in January, they caught up," explains Bush.

Basically, he says workers under-read the meters, causing earlier bills to reflect an incorrect and much lower price and usage.

So once the meter is read right, the cost catches up.  Bush says they've done some additional training and corrected the problem.

"It's never a good time, but with the economic situation, we know it made it worse and we value our customers, our are customers are valued, because we know they're the ones that pay our bills," adds Bush.

Bills, that's exactly what Davis says she wishes she would have had help with before shelling out more than $400.

"I hope this happens to no one else, I hope this happens to no one else because finances are tight and people don't need to be put through this kind of stress!"

Bush also encourages customers to call in, they even offer payment plans.  I sat down with a customer service representative at the local office who pulled my meter history.  It shows the average daily temperature and usage for each month.  So the representative was able to explain what my bill should have actually looked like, and then we calculated what the proper price would have been.

If you've had problems like this with your gas bill you can contact Atmos Energy at 888-286-6700, or visit the local customer service center at 2300 Victory Drive.

They don't accept payments at this location, but you can sit down and talk to someone. They office is open from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. also provides information on how to read your bill, how to manage your energy costs, where to find payment centers and energy-saving tips.