Forced to move in pandemic, one customer questions last Georgia Power bill

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Johnna Lawson is settling into a new city after leaving Savannah in early January.

She had lived in the Hostess City for some time but was forced to move after an injury first put her on disability, and later when the only job she could find during the pandemic was in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“I accepted a position in Albuquerque, so I came out here, and then I got the Georgia Power bill in the mail.

She expected it to be less than $100, saying it should have been just to mid-January. To her surprise, the bill was over $550.

“I’m living paycheck to paycheck and I had to take a pay cut to even come here,” said Lawson. “I hadn’t worked since September, and you’ve got to take what’s available, so I had to move.”

So while she needed to move to make a living, the fact she moved when she did is the issue for Georgia Power.

Lawson was on a payment option called Flat Bill, which offers customers the same payment per month, no matter how much electricity used in that single month. That can be good for the customer, however, Georgia Power says that plan requires a year-long commitment.

“We explain the different requirements and the terms of the plan so that customers will understand that it’s a 12-month contract,” says John Kraft from Georgia Power.

Kraft says customers often use more electricity during hotter months, but the flat rate allows those customers’ bills to always remain the same. However, if a customer cancels the contract before the year is up, Kraft says that customer may not have fully paid for the electricity used up to the point of cancellation, so an adjustment is needed to break even.

Lawson sees it as having to pay Georgia Power when she’s not even living in the state anymore. “So if I’m not there using those services, they should not charge me for those services,” she said.

Kraft couldn’t speak specifically about Lawson’s dispute but says in general, any customer who leaves the contract before the 12 months is up may face an adjustment.

“It’s just making it, even if the customer has to leave the contract early,” said Kraft. “So that they’re paying for what they (actually) used in the first part of the contract.”

Conversely, Kraft says if customers complete the 12-month contract, there is no adjustment, even if the customer may have ultimately used more electricity throughout the year than the amount of money the flat rate provided during the 12-month life of the contract.

He says that can certainly benefit a customer, but again, they must complete the year.

Lawson, however, thinks people deserve more consideration during these times. “I think they’re taking advantage of people during hard times because of the pandemic,” she said.

Kraft says Georgia Power has continually worked with customers over the last six months to provide payment plans during COVID and says many are still catching up as part of those allowances.

Lawson says, however, she has been threatened with her bill being sent to a collection agency if she doesn’t pay the amount still owed. She says she has no choice but to let that happen.

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