Troubleshooter: Restaurant owner gets $70K back in overcharged electric bills

ROCKY MOUNT, NC (WTVD) -- Imagine month after month paying your electric bill only to learn you've been overcharged for five years.

It's exactly what happened to Juan Fabian at his Rocky Mount restaurant La Perla Tapatia.

"I complained several times throughout the years, and the answer was always the same," Fabian said.

He said the representative with the utility company told him they checked the meter and nothing was wrong. Juan said he didn't buy it as he showed us his bills showing how the restaurant's power bill used to be about $1,200 and shot up to more than $3,000 a month at the beginning of 2012.

"Something is wrong here, but they sent someone here, and after a couple of days they said everything is right," Fabian said.

Some of the bills were so high and too tough to pay that the restaurant's power was disconnected when he couldn't pay the high bills.

Out of the blue, in July of 2017, Fabian got a letter from the city alerting him that during a site visit and review of his account, it was determined the restaurant had been overbilled for electricity.

The city posted a credit of $26,169.53 for two years of being overbilled.

While it's a big chunk of change, Fabian was not happy.

"Why can I only can get two years back when I complained since 2012, 2013, and that much money that was taken why I can't get that money back?" he asked.

The city said it would only reimburse Fabian for 24 months because it's city policy.

Fabian reached out to me, and I reached out to the City of Rocky Mount and their representatives did look into the problem.

Good news for Fabian as the city agreed to go back to the start of the problem, which Juan said was in December 2011.

After my involvement, the city agreed to reimburse for an additional three years of overpayments which equaled a refund to Juan of $43,900.

When you add that amount to the $26,169.53 the city already paid to Fabian, he was refunded more than $70,000 by the City of Rocky Mount because of overbilling on the restaurant's electric bill.

"Now it's fixed, I'm so happy with your involvement," Fabian said. "I never expected it to happen. Thank you so much for all of your support, and I'm really happy the problem was resolved."

With the money, Fabian said he and his brother will be making improvements to La Perla Tapatia.

The City of Rocky Mount provided this statement into how the overbilling went on for five years, and how they resolved it:

The city became aware of the issue with La Perla Tapatia restaurant on Dec. 15, 2016, during an electric meter site scan performed by the city. Site scans are performed periodically to test electric meters for accuracy and to validate the results with information in our billing system. The scan revealed that the electric metering was incorrect and recording twice the actual consumption. This was due to the failure to record in the billing system the earlier replacement of the existing electric metering current transformer with a current transformer with a multiplier that indicated twice the consumption. (The electric current usage by large commercial customers is often too large to be registered by a residential type electric meter, so current transformers and the associated proper multiplier is used to record actual consumption).

The failure to update the proper multiplier in the billing system was the result of a breakdown in communication between the crew who performed the work and the electric meter shop responsible for updating the billing system. The city has reimbursed the customer the over-billed amount for two years in accordance with our policy. The multiplier was an isolated issue affecting this business only.

This matter is now being handled by the city attorney and the customer's attorney, with both parties working on a settlement. It is the city's intention to reimburse the customer for any additional amounts billed in error.

The city of Rocky Mount values our customers and strives to do what is right for Mr. Fabian and for all of our customers. Therefore, we will work to streamline the process of resolving any future issues such as these and make sure measures are in place to prevent this from happening again.
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