Saving with Surge Protectors
Lowering Utility Bills
I recently had two TV sets, two cable boxes and my entire home theatre system ruined when the electric company changed out a power pole. They refuse to take responsibility for it. I now know the difference between a power strip and a surge protector but am questioning the reasoning that this makes it my fault! I didn't get any warning that they were going to do this or I would have unplugged all my electrical appliances. Have any other readers encountered this kind of situation? I have lost over $1800 and do not have the money to replace any of this. It was a gift from my son. How do you fight (and win) with the utility company?
Mara in Texas
Most states regulate the operations of public utilities. Write a formal complaint letter to the State Utilities Regulator outlining the damages you sustained while the utility workers were maintaining their facilities and ask for compensation for all the damage you received due to the action of the utility workers. Include the names and dates (if possible) of the contacts you made with the utility and their response. Ask the regulator to investigate the matter and inform you of the results.
Each state has a Public Utility Commission. In Georgia, the members are elected, not appointed. Contact your representative about your problem. This is what the commission is for in Georgia and other states. They can help solve the problem or at least mediate a settlement.
Rick in Georgia
The best thing to do in your situation is to write a lot of letters to the editor of your local newspaper. I have found the utility companies won't do a thing until a little bad publicity comes their way.
While it seems reasonable to fight the utility company on this one, you might want to check with your homeowner's insurance. We had a stove get zapped in a storm and our insurance replaced it. Of course, you want to look at premiums, deductibles, etc.
Lise in Paw Paw, Michigan
I would suggest talking to others in your neighborhood to see if anyone else lost anything due to the surge. Going to the power company with a united front might force them to take notice.
My suggestion would be to talk to a local TV station that has a consumer advocate that investigates these types of situations and helps people by talking to the company on their behalf. The threat of negative publicity from a customer service problem making it to the local TV news might be very effective.
You most likely do not own your cable boxes. Normally they are only rented from the cable company. So you can take them in and explain what happened and they will give you new boxes. As for your two TVs and Home Theater System, have you checked to see if they are still under warranty? Most warranties cover power surges.
Also check your utility bill to see if you are paying for what my utility company calls "In House Line Protection." If you have this coverage, the utility company will reimburse you in full.
One thing you want to do is make sure you document every single conversation you have with them. Always get the persons name and phone extension number. Always ask to speak to a supervisor. They have more authority. If at all possible, go down to the utility company and complain loudly in person rather than on the phone where they can hang up on you.
If all else fails, a nice letter to "The Editor" section of your local newspaper is in order. The utility company does not like bad publicity.
However, keep paying your bill each month. If you decide that holding back your payments will move them, you can forget that. One has nothing to do with the other and it will cause you more trouble than it is worth.
It is extremely hard to fight most utility companies because they are usually a monopoly and you have no where else to go for power and they know it.
I would agree with Mara that this is not her fault. While I haven't had this particular fight with a utility, I've had plenty of others. Most of the time, I win. Mara doesn't say exactly who she contacted or dealt with at the electric company, but I've found that most employees (whether at an utility company, a store, etc.) have a certain script that they do not veer from. It usually goes something like, "We're sorry for your inconvenience, but there's nothing we can do."
My solution is to go right to the top. If you have the time, ask for a supervisor. If that supervisor does not help you to your satisfaction, then ask for his or her supervisor, and so on. If necessary, contact the CEO or president of the company with a registered letter if possible. You'd be surprised what you can accomplish by doing this. Most bigwigs will give you what you want just because they want to get rid of you. A site that is also helpful is planetfeedback.com. You can write directly to companies from this site and registration is free. A few years ago, we got a $26,000 roof for $15,000 from Home Depot because they had made a mistake in the estimate, and when they realized it, they wanted to get out of the deal. Finding no satisfaction from the employees involved, I contacted their corporate office using this site, and they ended up having to eat the difference. It often takes time, and you will have to be like a dog with a bone, but it's worth it in the long run to get what you want.
Theresa in Long Branch, NJ
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