MOUNTAIN VIEW (KCBS) – A Mountain View couple who convinced a judge the SmartMeter installed in their home by Pacific Gas and Electric overbilled them for electricity use has reignited debate about the accuracy of the devices.

Vera Sokolova and Alexei Kacharovsky lodged a complaint with state regulators after their PG&E bill tripled in December 2009 and replacement meters didn’t solve the problem.

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“The first one was inaccurate and in order to prove it, we fought for seven or eight months,” Sokolova said.

KCBS’ Matt Bigler Reports:

Kacharovsky, an engineering technician for Dolby Labs in San Francisco, began taking detailed readings of the home’s energy use and comparing that against the SmartMeter.

Sokolova said she despaired on more than one occasion as they collected meticulous data to present to an administrative judge for the California Public Utilities Commission.

“At some point I started to think that this is not America. It’s governed right now by corporations, not by people,” she said.

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The couple successfully argued that the SmartMeter turned on a motion sensitive flood light, artificially inflating their electricity use so that monthly bills routinely topped out over $500.

They won a $1,400 judgment that, if approved by the commissioners, would be the first refund PG&E has had to pay for SmartMeter problems.

PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith said such problems are rare despite the problems the company has had rolling out the SmartMeter program.

“By an overwhelming amount, the SmartMeters are functioning as intended and measuring usage correctly,” Smith said.

He said the company was committed to regaining the public’s trust.

Earlier this week, PG&E admitted that 1,600 defective SmartMeters in Fresno were charging too much for electricity because they ran too fast.

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