0

Local businessman vows legal action against SSEMC

Company admits accusation of theft was ‘human error’

Ketan Patel

Ketan Patel

CONYERS — A local businessman is not taking it lightly that his electric company accused him of stealing power and then cut off electricity to his home, only later to admit that it was a mistake.

Ketan Patel, who owns Sigman Bottle Shop located on Sigman Road in Conyers, said that even though executives at Snapping Shoals EMC acknowledged their error and apologized to him for the misunderstanding, he will not be satisfied until the people responsible have been terminated from their jobs.

“I am planning to pursue legal action to make an example out of these people,” Patel said. “They are like cowboys running wild.”

Snapping Shoals EMC is a non-profit, consumer-owned cooperative headquartered in Covington that provides power to about 95,000 residential, commercial and industrial consumers in an eight-county area, including Rockdale, Newton, Henry, DeKalb, Butts, Walton, Jasper and Morgan counties.

Patel said Snapping Shoals stopped by his home last week about some issues with the electricity flickering in his south Rockdale County home, and it was determined that one of the lines to his home was broken. A crew was dispatched to his home to repair the line.

“Four days later, (on Tuesday) someone from Snapping Shoals comes knocking on my door and told me I had an illegal meter from Georgia Power and they were cutting off my meter because I was stealing power,” Patel said.

Patel said he tried reasoning with the men and told them there must be some mistake because he has been a loyal customer for more than 25 years and had never missed a payment — and had the bills to prove it that also showed the same meter number — but he said they wouldn’t listen. Instead, the Snapping Shoals employees contacted the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office, who sent two deputies to Patel’s home in response .

“I was begging them to listen to me and to please call the people who had done the work on my home four days earlier,” Patel said. “They would not listen.”

He said the employees told Patel that the only way he could have power reinstated to his home was if he spoke with someone at the Snapping Shoals EMC main office on Brown Bridge Road, just over the Newton County line.

So, Patel said he drove to the office and was told by a clerk that no one was available to speak with him.

“He told me my account was under investigation and that I would have to wait until they got back in touch with me,” he said.

Still angry, but not wanting the situation to escalate any further, Patel said he returned home.

About two and a half hours later, Snapping Shoals apparently realized its mistake and reinstated Patel’s electricity. By that time, however, the damage was done.

Patel said the situation was humiliating and could have been even worse, especially since his elderly mother lives with him and his wife, and she relies on an electric bed.

“I spoke with five or six people, begging them to listen to me, to look carefully at the documents, but they refused,” he said.

Patel said it’s understandable if one person makes an error in judgment or a mistake, but it is alarming when multiple people — from the crew at his home to the clerks at the main office — treat a customer the way he was treated.

“Everybody was in the same mode. What does that tell you about their corporate culture?” he said.

On Wednesday, Patel said he met with top executives with Snapping Shoals, who admitted their mistake. However, he said, unless the people involved are terminated, the company has no incentive to make any changes.

“Things do happen, but they should have compassion or at least listen to the other side of the story before accusing someone of being a thief and cutting off their power,” Patel said. “Someone has to be responsible.”

In response to questions from the Citizen, Leigh-Anne Burgess, public relations/communications specialist with Snapping Shoals EMC, said the company would not comment on Patel’s situation other than to say it was “human error.”

“We’re still looking into exactly what happened, but it was human error in this particular case,” she said.

Burgess referred to the Snapping Shoals Member Handbook found on its website, www.ssemc.com, for any further information regarding proper procedures.