Business Owner Shocked By $17K Pepco Bill

By Derrick Ward
|  Thursday, Feb 17, 2011  |  Updated 10:01 PM EDT
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A <a title=Maryland pizza store owner got the shock of his life when he opened his bill from Pepco to discover he owned almost $20,000. It wasn't a mistake." />

Derrick Ward

A Maryland pizza store owner got the shock of his life when he opened his bill from Pepco to discover he owned almost $20,000. It wasn't a mistake.

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Mohammed Jahangir opened up ZZ Pizza in Mt Rainier, Md., just over a year ago.

In the first months, the electric bills were manageable, “between three to four hundred dollars,” he said.

While he acknowledges may seem a little on the low side for a commercial establishment, he paid the bills.

Then, earlier this winter, when his power was disconnected for non-payment, Jahangir got the shock of his life when he called Pepco.

“I called them, and the lady said I owed them $17,000,” he said.

It seems the electric company had been estimating Jahangir’s bill for almost a year, a practice used when meters aren’t readily accessible to meter readers -- behind a fence or inside the building.

But Jahangir's meter was conspicuously on the outside of the building, where the electric company had installed it there when he opened the business.

Nonetheless, Jahangir had to begin paying down a seventeen thousand dollar bill, on top of his regular monthly bill.

“I wake up every morning with nightmares and fear that I don’t have electricity,” he said. “If I don’t have electricity, I don’t have business.”

There are only a small percentage of Pepco ratepayers on the estimated billing plan, officials said, and the company still tries to read those customers' meters at least twice a year.

The company said it will investigate the reasons for the discrepancies at ZZ Pizza.

Problems like this should be eliminated once new automated meters are in place, according to Pepco, but that could be years away.

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