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'I'm angry, I'm shocked' | Rancho Bernardo man sues SDG&E for high bills

SDG&E customers have been expressing their frustration over the exorbitant high bills.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — San Diego Gas and Electric ramped up their prices and now customers are amped up.

A Rancho Bernardo man says he's called SDG&E several times, he waited on the line for hours, once he got through, he still didn't get the help need needed.  

Now, he's taking the utility company to court over his high bills and he isn’t the only one outraged by the bills. 

SDG&E customers have been expressing their frustration over the exorbitant high bills.

“I just threw it against the wall and stomped on it,” said Kevin Kilpatrick, after he opened his latest bill from SDG&E.

This was after the man on a fixed income says, he cut back on hot showers, heat, and cooking and his bill was still $200.

“Over the last five years, my average bill has gone up 117%,” said Kilpatrick.

He knows his numbers, Kilpatrick is a statistics lecturer at Cal State San Marcos and kept track of his SDG&E bills spreadsheets and formulas for years.

With all this stress, he filed suit in small claims court.

“I'm angry, I'm shocked, I'm afraid and I wanted to do something about to,” said Kilpatrick.

The most he can be awarded is $10,000, unless there are other, unlawful findings on SDG&E’s part and small claims doesn't allow you to hire an attorney.

“There is a claim to be made against San Diego Gas and Electric. I applaud that ratepayer for doing something in small claims court,” said Maria Severson, taxpayer attorney. “You're talking about a company that has really unlimited resources to fight something like this. And you have one brave customer who's going to small claims court.”

Maria Severson has spent years suing utilities companies. She says customers need to hold the mayor and city accountable.

Severson currently has a claim against SDG&E from a customer who has a massive amount of solar panels, was receiving credits and getting charged hundreds of dollars, some cases thousands of dollars.

In May 2021, when the City negotiated a franchise contract with SDG&E and the company eliminated a section that requires SDG&E to use best efforts to minimize service costs.

“Well, no sooner than the ink was dry, we now see SDG&E increasing its rates,” said Severson. “Now, the mayor and the city council needs to ask SDG&E and rather demand answers and lowering the bills. And it also needs to be the city to be complaining to the public utility commission about these excessive practices.”

Mayor Todd Gloria’s office e-mailed CBS 8 a response that included how the rates were approved before the franchise agreement and the agreement includes transparency. (Full statement included at the end of this story)

“Why are they leaving it up to me to take on SDG&E all by myself,” said Kilpatrick.

Once again SDG&E has denied our request for an on camera interview and didn't comment on the small claims but says it understands customers frustrations, it's been a cold December, gas usage is up and so are natural gas prices. (Full statement included at the end of this story)

Kilpatrick says that's not good enough and hopes to see SDG&E in court.

“I would love for everyone who is angry at SDG&E to show up at the courthouse that day,” said Kilpatrick.

The court date is set for April 28, 2022 at 1:30 p.m. in the downtown courthouse.

To view the lawsuit, click here.

Mayor Statement: 

“The California Public Utilities Commission oversees and approves SDG&E rates, so unfortunately, this is not something that I or the City has jurisdiction over. The rate increases San Diegans are experiencing now were approved by the California Public Utilities Commission in 2019 – years before the new franchise agreement took effect.

 “Higher energy pricing is largely being driven by rising natural gas costs, which also is affecting utility costs across the country. It’s important to note that these recent rate changes are not a direct result of the City’s new franchise agreements for gas and electric services. In fact, the franchise agreements provide the public with unprecedented transparency around rates, including a required annual presentation to the City Council on SDG&E rate structure, planned rate filings and rate changes.

 “In addition to transparency, I believe that customers should have choices when it comes to their energy bill. That’s why I launched San Diego Community Power (SDCP), last May. SDCP is a community choice energy service that is be responsible for purchasing wholesale clean electricity on behalf of customers in San Diego, Chula Vista, Encinitas, La Mesa and Imperial Beach.

 “This spring, residential customers in San Diego will have a choice to purchase their energy from this public-owned, not-for-profit company that is committed to providing clean, renewable energy at competitive rates and investing in innovative programs to benefit the environment and the economy in our communities.”

SDG&E statement: 

"We understand our customers' frustration with higher bills that are being impacted in part by higher natural gas prices seen globally and increased gas usage due to an unusually cold December. While there is never a good time to raise rates, we remain focused on building a safe, climate-resilient and reliable grid that enables our region to reach our sustainability goals. SDG&E is committed to working with customers who are struggling to pay their bill and offers a variety of assistance programs, including flexible payment arrangements and bill discounts."

WATCH RELATED: Amped Up | What can consumers do to lower SDG&E rates? (February 2022)

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