Live 5 Scambusters: Couple scammed trying to save on energy bills

Live 5 Scambusters: Couple scammed trying to save on energy bills

GOOSE CREEK, SC (WCSC) - If you’re ever looking for ways to cut costs on your power bill, you should start by checking with your utility company and be wary of products promising big savings.

Marthena and Vernon Jefferson of Goose Creek thought they’d found a way to lower their energy costs. Instead, they ended up with big bills and never saw any savings.

The Jeffersons attended a sales pitch in 2016 from a company called National Utility Management. They signed up to have the Power Perfect Box installed in their home a few days later. When the work was done, the Jeffersons got three new shower heads, 1,700 feet of foil insulation in the attic, and the box installed next to their breaker panel.

“We’ve been waiting on paycheck to paycheck to get our bills paid and we just thought that would be a big help,” Marthena Jefferson said.

They also got a whopping bill from National Utility Management for $5, 624. When they didn’t have the money to cover the bill up front, they signed contract on the spot to finance the cost through Pinnacle Finance. Under the finance agreement, the Jeffersons would make 72 monthly payments of $112 for a total of $8,126. It seemed like a lot, but the Jeffersons hoped the savings would be worth it.

“Maybe our energy is going to go down lower and maybe it may balance out, but it didn’t,” Mathena said.

After almost two years, she finally took the package for her Power Perfect Box down to the Goose Creek office for Berkeley Electric Cooperative. She wanted to know why her bills weren’t getting any lower.

“She looked at me and she said ‘Y’all been scammed,’” Marthena said.

Two representatives for Berkeley Electric Cooperative visited the Jeffersons' home to see the power box for themselves. Eric Robinson, the supervisor of system metering and Eddie Plowden, the manager of marketing and energy services delivered the news the Jeffersons already suspected.

“This does nothing on energy savings at all,” Robinson said. “There’s no way it could. It’s not even tied in to the line side of the breaker panel. I’m sorry to say they sold them a scam.”

“We like to work with our members directly and give them advice,” Plowden said. Whether it would be an energy audit, call us first before you take this kind of action."

To make matters worse for the Jeffersons, the Kentucky-based National Utility Management no longer exists. The Better Business Bureau updated its listing and said the company shut down in 2017.

“The only thing I can say is we’ve been scammed and I pray the Lord that nobody else don’t get into the fix that we are in,” Marthena Jefferson said.

The Jeffersons say they contacted a lawyer and tried to get Pinnacle Finance to settle their debt. They say the company refused. Pinnacle Finance also declined to comment on this story.

After months of trying to find a solution, Mrs. Jefferson took out a bank loan to pay off the remaining balance with Pinnacle Finance. They still owe thousands of dollars for a power box they’ve been told is worth absolutely nothing.

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