KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) - A nonprofit leader says that despite months of trying, he can't get Consumers Energy to resolve an online billing problem -- and he's now getting shutoff notices.
E.S.C.A.P.E., a nonprofit organization that teaches children about fire prevention and safety, has used Consumers Energy's budget plan for years. Between 2008 and October 2012, its monthly energy bills from Consumers ranged between $367 and $470.
Then, suddenly, its monthly payments dropped to $172.
Founder and president of E.S.C.A.P.E. Michael McLeieer said it's obvious the change needs to be investigated. But despite multiple calls to Consumers, he hasn't been able to resolve the discrepancy.
McLeieer said he knew $170 per month was never going to be enough to cover all of his energy costs, but because he is an online customer and on the budget plan, the system does not allow overpayment.
"I brought it to their attention. They didn't want to do nothing to resolve it at that time. They just said their system would totally fix it," McLeieer said.
But a fix never happened and McLeieer's energy bill got more out of whack.
In May, the account showed that E.S.C.A.P.E. was owed a credit from Consumers Energy, which again prevented him from making any sort of payment. On those same bills, his account balance continued to grow.
McLeieer said he has been calling Consumers Energy, trying to get the problem resolved and was even assigned a representative to work with. But, he said, most of his calls have gone unreturned.
Saturday, McLeieer received a shutoff notice from Consumers Energy saying E.S.C.A.P.E. had to pay more than $1,000 in order to keep the lights on. But when he logs onto his online account, his balance shows he owes more than $1,700.
When asked if he knew how much he had to pay Consumers Energy at this time, McLeieer said he has "no idea."
"I realize Consumers Energy has a lot of customers, but this is a big problem and I'm sure its not just us that's having this problem," said McLeieer.
24 Hour News 8 reached out to Consumers Energy about the problem Tuesday and received this statement from the company Wednesday:
"Consumers Energy places great importance on providing excellent service to our customers. We have been in contact with this customer and have assured them that the electricity will not be disconnected as there has been a billing system issue affecting their account. A Consumers Energy representative will be talking with them in detail on Thursday to work out their billing situation."
After 24 Hour News 8 received that statement, McLeieer called and said he had received an automated call from Consumers Energy, telling him:
"This is Consumers Energy with an important message. The turn off notice we sent you recently is about to expire. To avoid having your service turned off, please pay at least $764 dollars immediately. To make a payment by phone, check or credit card, please press 5 now or go to our website at consumersenergy.com to make a payment online. You will need your Consumers Energy account information as well as your payment information. If you have already made a payment or if you are planning to pay within 7 days, please press 6 now. To hear this message again, press 9 or simply hang up."
McLeieer has also received a letter from Consumers Energy saying that the company is removing his nonprofit from the budget plan because he has missed more than "two or more payments."
It might be December but that is not stopping some people from "hanging 10" in Michigan.
A driver escaped safely after its vehicle crashed into the Grand River in Ottawa County Friday morning.
We get a brief break from the "lake-effect machine" Friday.