A Texas woman filed a class-action lawsuit this week to the tune of $1 billion in damages against Griddy, a Texas electricity retailer that the suit alleges engaged in illegal price gouging during the widespread outages that swept through the state last week.
Houston resident Lisa Khoury filed the suit on behalf of the countless Griddy customers that might be facing inordinate bills following the winter storm that knocked out power for countless residents across the state. Per Khoury’s suit, her monthly electric bills until this month ranged between $200 to $250. For the period between Feb. 1 and Feb. 19, she alleges Griddy charged her $9,546.
Griddy, for those unaware, is a service that lets Texas residents pay what the company claims are “wholesale rates” for electricity, rather than the fixed price that other providers might charge. Aside from these rates, Griddy also asks for a flat rate of about $10 per month for membership.
But these wholesale rates started spiking during the state-wide outage that affected millions of Texans, according to the suit. While wholesale rates typically charged $50 per megawatt hour, Reuters points out the state’s Public Utilities Commission raised the cap to $9,000 per megawatt hour.
“A class action will be the most efficient and effective way for Griddy’s customers to come together and fight this predatory pricing,” said Derek Potts, an attorney representing Khoury in the case. “At this point we don’t know how many people might be affected, but there are likely thousands of customers who’ve received these outrageous bills.”
One tab on the company’s FAQ page addresses some of the gouging claims made in the suit:
The reason wholesale prices were so high was on Monday, February 15th, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) cited its “complete authority over ERCOT” to direct that ERCOT set pricing at $9/kWh until the grid could manage the outage situation after being ravaged by the freezing winter storm.
Another page on Griddy’s site states that the company intends to fight “for, and alongside [its] customers for equity and accountability,” and will push the state’s “political appointees” to fess up about why price increases were “allowed to happen” during what’s undoubtedly one of the worst power outages in the country’s history.
In Griddy’s defense here, the suit claims that the company emailed its customers on Feb. 14—just before some of these sky-high prices were charged—warning that they should attempt to find a fixed-rate provider in the coming days. But Khoury says that this was too little, too late. By the time she received that email, the suit says, she and countless other Griddy customers weren’t able to make the switch, since most providers weren’t taking on new customers during the storm.
By the time Khoury finally managed to switch providers on Feb. 19, she’d already racked up thousands of dollars in charges. Other Griddy customers have reported bills of upwards of $5,000, despite suffering through days without power or heat.