A Chicago man who was billed nearly $4,000 for damage to his power lines that he didn't cause has been granted relief by power company ComEd.
Frank Prezzia, of Bolingbrook, Ill., said that his trouble with ComEd began more than a year ago, when his air conditioning failed to run one summer day at his home. The company sent out at a representative to fix the problem, who told Prezzia that electric work a few blocks away had disturbed his power line.
"A ComEd guy came out, said people were digging a couple blocks away, cut lines," Prezzia recounted. "I said 'ok fine,' and a weekend went by and another guy came out and fixed it and I guess they were done. Everything was working fine."
After the work was completed on Prezzia's house, months went by with no problem, he told ABC News. But then he was caught by surprise.
"Six to eight months after that I got a bill in the mail for almost $4,000. They wanted me to pay a bill for labor because I caused damage to ComEd services," he said.
Prezzia had received a ComEd a bill for $3,842 for what the company claimed was "damage to ComEd facilities." They cited a fence that had been isntalled in Prezzia's back yard, and said the fence had disrupted the power lines.
"But the fence deal was done by a neighbor, and it was done six months prior to my power going out. So if their line got cut, it would have been out that day," he said.
Prezzia said he contacted ComEd multiple times to dispute the bill, but they refused to listen to his story. He wrote a letter to the company explaining that he never caused damage to the ComEd electric service, and was told by a representative that it would be investigated. He never heard back, and then received a second bill.
"You know, I could say to you , 'you owe me ten thousand dollars,' but when you're someone like ComEd, saying 'you owe us ten grand,' they can go in and put it on your credit report and say 'you owe it to us whether you like it or not.' And who am I? Just one puny guy. Who's going to listen to me?" Prezzia said.
Finally, one person did listen to Prezzia, however. A reporter at the Chicago Tribune heard about Prezzia's dispute with ConEd and did some investigating, calling the power company and asking about the bill and the damage claim.
The reporter, Jon Yates, runs a column for the newspaper called "What's Your Problem?" which acts as a consumer advocate column. Yates reached out to the ComEd spokeswoman, who promptly sent a letter to Prezzia saying that the bill had been erased.
"We thank Mr. Prezzia for bringing this matter to our attention and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused," the company said in a statement sent to ABC News.
"As shared with the Chicago Tribune, ComEd reviewed our records and determined that the installation of the fence most likely caused the damage to the underground power line in Mr. Prezzia's back yard. However, this customer asserts that the fence was in place when he moved into the home and that he did not install it. Based on this information, we accepted the customer's word and chose to cancel his bill," the statement read.
Prezzia said he is thankful for the Tribune's help, but wishes the whole thing had never happened in the first place.
"As long as they're saying Frank don't owe them any money, I don't care what they say. I didn't damage their line with the fence, and shame on them if I did damage it if their work is that sloppy. That's ridiculous, " Prezzia said. "The whole thing with ComEd's response, I'm glad I don't owe them any money but the whole thing stinks if you ask me. I got done what I felt was right."
Prezzia has since sold his house and moved to another part of Illinois.