The Michigan Public Service Commission is investigating the billing and estimated usage practices of Consumers Energy in response to customer complaints.

Have you ever received a Consumers Energy bill and thought, "There's no way we used that much energy! We were on vacation last week!" Well, chances are that you probably didn't use that much energy. Many utility companies bill their customers on what is known as "estimated usage," a term you might see if you look at your bill close enough.

What is estimated usage? Basically, they don't always read your meter to determine how much energy you used. According to the Consumers Energy website, the reason for that is as follows:

"Consumers Energy strives to read each of our customer’s meters every month. There are occasions when this is not possible. If we do not read your meter, we will estimate it using the last 18 months of your energy usage along with weather data for the same time period."

Consumers also says that they will adjust your bill if your meter does not match the estimate, but you have to take the initiative and pay attention to make that happen. Since a lot of people don't realize that "estimated usage" is a thing, they are understandably upset when their bills do not match their perceived usage.

The MPSC, the agency that oversees Michigan utilities, says "problems have persisted for several years despite repeated meetings" with Consumers Energy, so they are now investigating their customers complaints surrounding estimated billing practices. Consumers Energy spokesman Dan Bishop says that the utility is working with the commission, "making progress” on reducing estimated reads, and are also speeding up the installation of smart meters

Consumers Energy is required to file a report by February 18th. The commission will then examine said report, and put forth its recommendations by May 18th.

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