This story has been updated with more information from Spire.
This February, Lafayette Square resident Sandra Smith got a bill from Spire that seemed unusually high. Last February she paid $391 to the natural gas company. This year for the same month, despite about the same usage, she owed $635.
"A lot of things weren't adding up," said Smith, who is now retired but previously taught math at Forest Park Community College.
Like many a frustrated consumer, she called customer service.
"Altogether I talked to five people at Spire. I kept getting bumped up the ladder," Smith said.
Eventually she ended up talking to somebody in Atlanta.
"The guy there tried to imply I didn't understand math," said Smith, who has a master's degree in math education.
After several days of back and forth, as well as a call to the state regulatory agency, Smith finally started getting some answers.
Smith said that Spire told her that it accidentally over billed some Spire customers in September of 2021 for 39 days.
Spire spokeswoman Raegan Johnson confirmed, "Late last year, we discovered a small number of our 1.2 million customers across Missouri were billed an incorrect number of days."
Smith says she was told the problem was compounded by Spire switching from therms to cubic centimeters to measure customer gas usage. "They apparently made a mistake in those conversions," Smith said.
The Riverfront Times asked Spire how many customers were affected, but have not gotten a reply to that question yet. Smith told the RFT that a Spire representative told her that the mistake affected about 4000 customers.
Johnson, the Spire spokeswomen, did say that "The majority of these customers have already seen a bill adjustment addressing the issue, and we expect the adjustment process to be completed by the end of March."
As to how the issue was detected, Johnson said, "We constantly monitor our systems. During a review, we discovered the billing cycle issue. Once it was discovered, we addressed the issue by adjusting the customers’ bills."
When the RFT talked to Smith again today, she'd just gotten her latest Spire bill. We asked her if it looked right to her.
"I haven't been able to sit down and study it yet," she said.
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