About that Duke Energy customer complaining about a higher bill…

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Duke Energy is not taking the latest meter-reading kerfuffle lying down, and is blasting the Tampa Bay Times for its history of “inaccurate reporting.”

Representatives for Tampa Bay’s leading utility company are striking back against a story that appeared Thursday in the Times over a proposed plan to adjust reorganizing the way the utility reads energy meters.

Reporter Ivan Penn, who covers Florida utilities, wrote a follow up to an earlier piece about the temporary extension of the length of Duke’s billing schedule, by as much as 12 days, which could mean about 267,000 customers paying larger bills.

In Thursday’s article, Penn described the case of 58-year-old Jim Wright of St. Petersburg, who “was struggling to pay his August bill with what he believes are the days added to his billing cycle.” Before paying the larger bill of $274.44, Wright received a new set of charges for $235.65.

“What a bunch of greedy, profit-starved jerks,” Wright is quoted as saying. “The Public Service Commission is supposed to protect us from this sort of clear scam. It should be criminal and a class-action lawsuit filed.”

The issue is that Duke charges customers $11.34 for every 100-kilowatt hours used, up to 1,000-kilowatt hours. After that, the charges jump to $13.70 for every 100-kilowatt hours.

“Multiply the difference between the standard rate and the higher fee, and Duke could collect hundreds of thousands of dollars — for nothing,” Penn wrote in the original article, which ran on Wednesday.

In response, Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala, Tampa Bay’s senior Republican lawmaker, issued a letter of protest to Alex Glenn, president of Duke Energy Florida, urging him to drop the new billing program.

Also, Latvala and state Sen. Jeff Brandes each sent a letter to Art Graham, chair of the Florida Public Service Commission asking it to “intervene” in the matter.

However, Duke wants to make it clear to the public of the fundamental misconceptions in the Times‘ story.

Penn’s example of the new meter reading process is simply wrong, according to a Duke Energy spokesperson, who said in an email that it “once again shows how inaccurate reporting drives the Times coverage.”

The Duke spx points out the problem with using Wright was an example of a customer with a higher bill because the company is changing how they read customer meters.

“When in fact the reroute had nothing to do with Mr. Wright’s bill increase,” he wrote. “Last month, he was billed for 32 days of energy consumption. This month his bill was for 29 days of electric use.

“Yep, he was billed for fewer days this month than last, not more as the Times infers,” the spokesman add. “The real reason for the increase in his bill is because he used more energy.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.