$1,800 Shock: Homeowner Asked to Pay Someone Else's Power Bill

The mystery charge was from the home's previous owner, and SoCal Edison insisted the new homeowner was on the hook

Juan Uribe couldn't believe his eyes when he received a $1,800 power bill.

"I just felt this blood rushing to my face and I'm just like, 'Whoa, that's got to be a mistake," he said.

It was no mistake.

The mystery charge on Uribe's bill was from the previous owner. That's right, he received someone else's bill. So why is Southern California Edison charging Uribe for it? He's owned the house for two years.

"I was trying to keep my cool on the phone, I didn't want to, you know, cuss or anything like that," Uriber said.

Edison insisted he's on the hook for it anyway — without giving him a reason. How is that fair?

Uribe turned to the NBC4 I-Team.

It's a little sticky. Utilities are allowed to "recover costs" if it "believes an individual has benefited from service" of the previous customer. In other words, the person who owned the house before Uribe apparently didn't pay for power the last six months. Now Uribe's stuck with the bill.

"I refuse to pay anything that's not mine," Uribe said.

Even if his power gets shut off, he says.

"You have really no remedy or recourse against southern California Edison," consumer attorney Brian Kabateck said.

Kabateck says SoCal Edison's first duty is to state regulators, not its customers, and sometimes it's not fair because things don't get addressed fast enough.

"It's become a giant problem because the public has nowhere to turn," he said.

After the I-Team got involved, SoCal Edison agreed to waive the $1,800, saying "Mr. Uribe is not responsible for the charges," but maintaining "There was no error per se. SCE is authorized to recover costs."

The utility called this "routine" but repeatedly ignored our questions about how many people get stuck with bills that aren't theirs.

Now feeling vindicated, Uribe is frustrated with Edison for putting him through the stress.

"They want their money and they don't care how they're going to get it," Uribe said.

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