HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - By: Monica Parise
Despite denials from Hawaiian Electric Company that customers are being overcharged due to a billing system change, a Nanakuli man went to drastic extremes Wednesday to prove he's being ripped off.
After watching our story on Hawaii News Now Tuesday, Donald Jose was outraged at HECO's suggestion that people who can't reach a live customer service person by phone, should show up at the company's Richard Street or Ward Avenue billing offices in person.
"Four days in a row I've called to get this bill corrected. The phones are always busy, busy, and busy. That's a poor excuse when they say bare with us. Bare with me if I cannot pay my bill," he said. A grandfather of seven on a fixed income, Jose is unwilling to drive for an hour from his home in Nanakuli to HECO downtown because of the company's customer service problems.
Jose said the situation has made his life miserable and he refuses to pay his bill until the alleged mistake is resolved. He's so fed up; he spent money he doesn't have -- to pay a licensed electrician to examine his meters and prove the company wrong.
"They cannot even get their act together right now and they like us pay now and they say we'll pay you back later? I don't really trust them. I'm not going to pay them. I want it corrected now," he demanded in frustration.
With the clock ticking toward the bill's due date, Jose said HECO's premature disconnection warning has kept him awake at night. Getting nowhere on the company's website, Jose threatened to sue if his family is left to swelter in the August summer heat."They're ripping us off and yet on top of that they still like me jump in my car and go to them? I don't think that's fair, "he complained.
HECO says frequent audits show the new computer system is not making billing errors or unfairly sending out disconnection notices. Company Spokesperson, Peter Rosegg, insists extended call wait times are largely due to a lack of employee training on the system installed back in May.
"In fairness to everyone who does pay their bills, we have to ask them to pay up or we have to disconnect service. That has nothing to do with the new system, "said Rosegg.
But Donald Jose thinks HECO isn't telling the whole truth: "A lot of people just let it go. I'm one of those people who can't afford to let it go anymore."
Jose is concerned that people are paying their bills without checking them for mistakes, but Rosegg says as long as disputes are documented on HECO's website, customers won't have their electricity cut off.
Public Utilities Commission
465 South King Street, Room 103
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Division of Consumer Advocacy
P.O. Box 541
Honolulu, HI 96809