Energy & Environment

Houston-Area Griddy Customer Seeks Class Action Lawsuit Alleging Unlawful Price Gouging

Customers say the retail electricity provider charged them exponentially higher rates during last week’s storm. Griddy says Public Utilities Commission to blame for soaring prices.

Crews work to restore power to homes in Euless, Texas, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021.
AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth
Crews work to restore power to homes in Euless, Texas, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021.

A Chambers County woman who says she was charged more than $9,000 for electricity during last week's winter storm is petitioning for a $1 billion class action lawsuit against retail electricity provider Griddy, according to court documents.

Lisa Khoury, of Mont Belvieu, alleged in a petition filed in Harris County District Court that she attempted to switch providers after realizing she was facing sky high electricity prices, but was not able to.

Over a six-day period from Feb. 13-19 Griddy charged her $9,340, according to the petition. It goes on to say her normal monthly bill is $200-$250.

"The outrageous bills added to Khoury's stress and financial burden, especially as a retiree," reads the petition, which seeks class action protection. "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."

The company did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Heading into the storm Griddy warned its 29,000 customers in Texas that prices were about to go up, and in an unusual move asked their customers to switch electricity providers.

However, by the time many customers got the notification most providers had closed for the President's Day weekend or were not accepting new customers.

As temperatures dipped below freezing across much of Texas and electricity demand approached record levels, the Public Utilities Commission directed the state's grid manager ERCOT to raise the wholesale price of electricity to reflect scarcity of supply. Normally the price per kilowatt hour is 12 cents or less; ERCOT, as directed by the PUC, bumped the wholesale price up to $9 per kilowatt hour.

Griddy bases what it charges customers on that wholesale price. Customers pay the delivery charge and a flat monthly fee plus the wholesale price of electricity at the time you use it.

"When there is excess energy on the grid, prices drop and can even go negative, which means you are getting paid to use electricity (awesome!)," Griddy's website explains, "And when demand is high like on hot summer days or winter storms, prices can spike. The highest the price can go to is $9/kWh (which has only ever happened 0.005% of the time.)"

Khoury isn’t the only customer expressing frustration.

On Twitter and Facebook Griddy customers have been sharing screenshots of bills charging $1,000 or more, and demanding the company provide financial relief to those impacted by last week’s high wholesale prices.

Griddy is blaming the Public Utilities Commission for the high prices, saying the PUC's move to raise wholesale prices "changed the game."

"We intend to fight this for, and alongside, our customers for equity and accountability," the company wrote in a statement, "to reveal why such price increases were allowed to happen as millions of Texans went without power.