You ain't gonna believe this, but I double-checked.
DTE Energy last month sent me a computer-generated, boilerplate letter informing me that they had found my old gas meter hadn't been correctly reporting my residence's use of natural gas (furnace, kitchen range, clothes dryer etc) for a number of years and that they, DTE, had overcharged me - get this - $1,811.31!
Naturally, I figured it was a joke. Or there was some kind of a catch. I mean, when's the last time any utility admitted that they'd made that size of an error in your favor?
Now, the letter didn't exactly apologize for this gigantic miscalculation, of course. It came to my home address by regular mail. And the salutation read simply "Dear Customer." It bore no signature, but concluded with a kind of insincere "Sincerely" and with a very impersonal departmental ID: "Residential and Commercial Billing."
There was a phone number, so I called Ms "Billing". The machine took a message and a clerk called me back. She explained that when DTE replaced my old gas meter with a new one a few months back, they tested the old one (a test required by the Michigan Pubic Service Commission, incidentally) and found it had been overcharging me.
For how long? No one seems to know. But according to MPSC rules, they only had to calculate my overcharge based on "the 36 months prior to the (old) meter being removed." It could have been wrong for 25 years. But I get a refund only for the last three years. Oh, well, what the hell.
The DTE letter informed me that a $1,811.31 "adjustment" had been "credited to my account." Exactly what did that mean? I asked the nice DTE lady.
"Well," she said, "we'll take some off of your bill every every month." I laughed.
"M'am," I said politely, "I'm a senior citizen. I don't buy green bananas. How about sending me a check for $1,811.31?"
"That's O.K.," she said, "but we already took one month off your next bill. We'll send you the balance."
The check's in the mail, right? But it was! A few days later a check arrived for $1,608.62.
A word to the wise: If your gas meter's been changed recently, call DTE and ask them if they've checked the accuracy of your old one. DTE's phone number's 866-861-9208. And if you have money coming, remember you have to ask for it if you want a lump sum refund payment.