Griddy Energy LLC has been hit with a proposed class action petition in Texas over the astronomical prices consumers say the wholesale power retailer has charged for electricity during and because of the devastating Winter Storm Uri.
The lawsuit, filed on February 22 in Harris County District Court, claims Griddy’s variable-rate plan customers, even those who lost power during the unprecedented week-long weather event, have been hit with what’s been described as “massive,” ”catastrophic,” “eye watering” and “unconscionable” electricity bills amid the disaster.
According to the suit, Griddy customers pay a $9.99 monthly fee plus the cost of spot power trades on Texas’s power grid based on the time of day they use the power. The plaintiff, a Mont Belvieu resident, says she typically kept a $150 balance in her Griddy account to pay for electricity, and averaged between $200 and $250 in energy costs per month.
After Winter Storm Uri hit the plaintiff’s area, however, Griddy automatically withdrew money from the woman’s account each time her electricity bill hit the recharge amount of $150, the complaint says. Per the suit, Griddy withdrew $150 from the plaintiff’s account eight times between February 13 and 18. By Friday, February 19, Griddy had withdrawn a total of $1,200 from the plaintiff’s bank account, the lawsuit says.
By the time the plaintiff placed a stop-payment on her bank account on February 18, she still owed Griddy an additional $8,235, with her entire energy bill for February 1 through 19 at more than $9,500, the case says. Other customers, according to the suit, have been hit with Griddy electricity bills as high as $17,000.
“[The plaintiff] and Class Members were victims of Griddy’s price gouging during and because of the winter storm,” the case alleges. “They relied on Griddy’s electricity to their detriment, particularly in an unprecedently [sic] winter storm where other providers were unavailable. Griddy’s price gouging was a producing cause of economic and mental anguish damages.”
The lawsuit scathes that Griddy charged the plaintiff while she and her husband were without power from February 17 through 18. Amid the winter storm, the plaintiff hosted her parents and in-laws while continuing to minimize any power usage because of the high prices, the case says.
“The outrageous bills added to [the plaintiff’s] stress and financial burden, especially as a retiree,” the lawsuit says. “She describes herself as going into ‘survival mode.’ Many Texans complained the crisis drained ‘the mental reserves they had left’ from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
According to the lawsuit, this is not the first time Griddy customers have been ambushed by drastic bill increases. The case says weather-related power changes and resulting bill increases due to heat in August 2019 were effectively nothing compared to the financial toll of Winter Storm Uri, when spot electricity prices “soared to $9,000 per megawatt hour from the pre-storm rate of $50 per megawatt hour.”
The suit goes on to say Griddy on February 14 emailed 29,000 customers to suggest they switch to another provider with a fixed rate. The following day, the defendant posted a letter on its website about the massive storm and electricity prices, which was followed a few days later by another update on high bills, with the company claiming it was seeking relief from utility regulators, the proposed class action reads.
Proposed class members, however, could not switch providers at that time because other companies were not accepting new customers due to the storm, the case says. The plaintiff, after persistent attempts, was eventually able to change energy providers on February 19, the suit shares.
The lawsuit’s filing comes as the dust settles on Winter Storm Uri, which for a week wreaked havoc on ill-equipped Texas with sub-freezing temperatures, snow and ice. With the state using so much energy to heat homes, the Texas power grid was overtaxed, leaving residents without electricity for days as other problems, including the loss of internet and cell service and food contamination and shortages, mounted.
With the state under a winter storm warning, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) on February 14 announced that rolling outages would be imposed for the next two days to avoid a complete system shutdown, the lawsuit says. Per the case, ERCOT blamed the mass outages in the state on generator failures with natural gas providers.
ClassAction.org will update this page with any developments, so be sure to check back regularly.
Who’s covered by the lawsuit?
The lawsuit, which alleges violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, looks to represent all Texas residents who purchased or obtained electricity services from Griddy and were charged and/or paid excessive and/or exorbitant electricity prices during and because of Winter Storm Uri of February 2021.
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