Second worker disciplined for Vectren meter reading mistake, more customers affected

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GREENSBURG, Ind. - Fox 59 has discovered that a second worker has been discipline for making a meter reading mistake that resulted in high gas bills for hundreds of Vectren customers in Greensburg and Columbus.

Last month, FOX 59 reported about 500 customers in the Greensburg area were slapped with an unusually high gas bill. For Joe Rust, owner of Crafts & Occasions in downtown, it was more than double what he thought he should be paying this time of year.

"It was approximately $1,200. That bill would normally for that period of time and for that number of days would probably have been under $500," he said. "I turned around and called Vectren and I said what's going on?"

Vectren said a contracted worker was under-reading meters for months, causing the company to undercharge customers. Now people like Rust were getting higher bill that reflected the corrections.

A spokeswoman for the utility issued an apology to customers:

"Vectren extends its apologies to impacted residents of the Greensburg area for the meter-reading error, which unfortunately resulted in generating higher-than-normal natural gas bills..."

Now, Vectren has discovered another contracted worker was also committing the same mistake and that about 450 customers in Columbus have also been affected. The company says the contracted vendor took necessary personnel action against the two employees.

As the utility company tries to straighten things out, some customers like Rust were surprised to see another problem in this month's bill: a disconnection notice and a late fee.

"I looked at the fine print and of the usage and then underneath it in parenthesis it says includes a $15.12 service charge."

The same spokeswoman told FOX 59 those notices were sent out automatically via the utility company's billing system. However, customers affected by the meter reading mistake do not have to pay those fees and should call customer service.

Rust said he did that, but he wonders who else is paying attention to the fine details? He wants to know why the company didn't alert him about any of this?

"I think that was poorly handled from a public relations standpoint," said Rust. "If there's something wrong, they should be the ones notifying. It shouldn't be up to the customer to take initiative."

In response, the Vectren spokesperson responded:

"While Vectren made outbound communications to those who were likely impacted in an attempt to apologize and offer payment arrangement options, we were unable to connect with some customers. Customers who feel they may have received a high natural gas bill due to this error and have questions or would like to establish payment arrangements can call us directly at 1-800-227-1376 or engage via live chat on Vectren.com...

"Vectren takes full responsibility for this isolated error and continues to explore technology-related enhancements, including automated meter reading, to help prevent this error in the future. Please accept our apology for this inconvenience"