A Sonoma couple who lost their home in a wildfire last year has finally begun to heal after settling a week-long battle with their former utility company, which demanded money they claimed to have already paid.
Rochelle and Richard Nyquist lost everything in the Patrick fire, one of a group of wildfires that burned through 56,556 acres and destroyed 1,300 structures in northern California in October 2017.
To take her mind off everything, Rochelle decided she was going to pay her remaining utility bills in order to gain a sense of closure. She paid everything off in January 2018, including an AT&T bill for their TV and a landline phone, she told ABC News. Then, the couple went away.
With one of their daughters collecting their mail for them, they didn’t think they had anymore outstanding charges, Rochelle said. But when the couple returned in July, they were confused to see that AT&T had filed for collections of a little over $400.
Rochelle said that “it was like a circle” trying to get in touch with a supervisor on the phone at AT&T, and that it ultimately took a week before someone would speak to her. When they did, the supervisor denied that she had paid her bills and offered to cut her outstanding bill by 50 percent, she said, adding that the company said it kept trying to call her phone, unaware that it burned down
Determined to end this haunting reminder of the devastating fire, the couple reported to KGO’s “7 On Your Side,” a consumer advocacy service.
Shortly after, the couple received a call from an AT&T representative admitting the problem, and saying that the bill was in fact paid.
“Due to an error, we did not cancel the account,” AT&T told ABC News in an email. “We have apologized, corrected the error and provided a full refund.”
But while the Nyquists might have been able to settle their own dispute, Rochelle noted that many other people who had lost everything were going through similar issues with their own utility companies.