One company makes up around 40% of price gouging complaints related to the derecho

Published: Nov. 14, 2020 at 8:08 AM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A spokesperson for the Iowa Attorney General’s Office said it received nearly 50 complaints about WireOne Electric price gouging during the aftermath of the August derecho.

Those complaints are around 40% of the 121 complaints people filed related to the derecho. KCRG-TV9′s i9 Investigative Unit found the company charged one woman higher than average rates for service and overcharging her for an “emergency fee."

Lynn Hicks, who is a spokesperson for the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, said it’s an unusual number of complaints for a single company. But, he didn’t know what to compare it with since the derecho was unprecedented. He said it’s still an open investigation and the process to investigate these claims is slow.

Crystal Hird, who is an artist living in Cedar Rapids, said in August she was one of those people who trusted the company after she needed an electrician because her meter came off her house.

Hird said seeing a local area code phone number made her comfortable with the service. However, she was given a quote of over $3,500 for repairs. Then, she said she was threatened over the phone with a $300 emergency fee or facing the prospect of not seeing an electrician for months. The company ended up charging her about a $319 emergency fee instead after she sent the payment.

Hird said she ended up finding another company based in Iowa City to perform the same repair for $500.

“I knew they could do it for less,” Hird said. “It was just shocking that someone would tell us it would cost so much and then another person was like no, no, it’s not going to cost that much.”

Hird was surprised when we told her about the number of claims filed against WireOne

“That’s a large amount of claims,” Hird said. “Like, wow, I’m disappointed and I hope that those folks didn’t get taken advantage of.”

i9 reached out to the company, who told us, in a statement, that it’s been transparent with the state Attorney General’s office and that the allegations of price gouging are without merit. The statement also said that people who were not customers of the company, and individuals who work for competitors, filed complaints.

However, a person doesn’t have to purchase a product or service to make a complaint about price gouging.

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