Phoenix man fights mystery energy use charges

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- Like most of us, Ernie Kaiser doesn't give electricity a second thought. When he fires up his computer or maybe turns the lights on, all he knows is that everything comes on.

"Electricity these days is very vital unless you're living in the woods," Kaiser said.

But electricity is all Kaiser thinks about now.

That's because he got a bill from his utility company, APS, claiming they were back billing him for electricity that he apparently used but never paid for.

And the bill was big -- almost a thousand dollars.

"That's stealing. They're stealing from me," Kaiser told 3 On Your Side.

Well, APS officials said they're not stealing.

However, APS said someone manipulated Kaiser's meter to his home and, as a result, the meter recorded only a fraction of Kaiser's true power usage, which resulted in extremely cheap electric bills.

Damon Gross with APS said the utility company wants to be paid for usage dating back to 2010.

"All we're asking is that the customer make right for the energy that his home consumed," Gross said.

Gross said someone used a common method for slowing down electricity use at Kaiser's home.

In fact, APS took pictures of Kaiser's meter when they discovered the tampering.

3 On Your Side won't divulge the photographic clues that tipped APS off, but the utility company said Kaiser benefited by having inexpensive power bills for the last two years.

Kaiser's meter is located at the back of his complex in a place that is kind of a common area. Kaiser said anybody has access to where his meter is located and just about anyone could have tampered with it.

APS agreed anyone could have done it, but they still maintain Kaiser benefited from the cheaper rates.

We showed Kaiser the APS photographs detailing the tampering to see what he had to say.

Kaiser did acknowledge the meter in the pictures was his, but maintains someone else must have tampered with it because he sure didn't.

"They've already admitted to you that someone else may have done it because I didn't do it," Kaiser said.

Kaiser is now on the hook for what APS calls energy diversion. He said he's not happy and will reluctantly pay the bill.

APS said that's the only fair option.

"Who did it, who you believe did it or we believe did it, that's not even part of the discussion," Gross said. "The discussion is that the customer benefited from energy that wasn't paid for."

APS said it's confident in its conclusion. However, they did allow Kaiser to be placed on a payment plan so he can pay that nearly $1,000 in installments.

Still, Kaiser is not happy.