From the Forum – HELP! Pepco is out of control


HELP! Pepco is out of control:

“Our Pepco bill for February is $356, this is about $80 more than in January which was already extremely high for our two bedroom one bath condo. The bill states that our usage is about $270 (for ‘New electric supply charges-SOS Provider) which is approximately the same as last month’s bill (and already outrageous), however this month there is an added $85 charge (for ‘New electric distribution charges-Pepco’) which was not there before. We also have a Nest thermostat which is supposed to decrease our energy use, but our bill is going up every month significantly. Every bill states that it is an actual reading, but it doesn’t seem right either.

We also went on Pepco’s website and realized that the chart stating what we’ve paid over the last four months (we moved here in November) does not match up to what our bill was (see attached screenshots). I don’t know what to do at this point, but I do know that $356 is way too much to pay for a 2 bedroom condo. Not to mention that our house has never been above 64 degrees this winter in an effort to minimize the bill. Do you know what this ‘New electric distribution charge’ is or if there is any action we can take to get our bill lowered to a reasonable price? Are there any other competitive providers who do not go through Pepco, or are they the only choice? Any advice is welcome!”

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76 Comment

  • This is INSANE to me because we have a 3 bedroom/2 bath rowhouse and the most our electric bill has ever been is $40. Granted we have gas heat and haven’t lived in the house during spring & summer yet, but still! I would go down to the Pepco office in person as painful and time-consuming as that may be.

  • That does seem really high but for starters have you called Pepco to ask what the new/weird charges are?

    • justinbc

      It doesn’t seem like anyone ever contacts the problem causing agency / company / person / etc anymore. The immediate solution is to ask the Internet to solve it. This is a case where it would be highly advisable to go down to the Pepco office and have someone explain in person what’s going on.

      • +1000. What did PEPCO say?

      • Sometimes it helps to be forearmed with a little knowledge. Not sure this is such a case, but it’s not crazy.

      • We are having the same issue as the OP. I’ve called Pepco six times (literally) since February 2, when I put in a service order request to get our situation looked into. They keep telling me to be patient, pay my bills, and if they need to refund them they will. Service request still unfulfilled as of 3/26…

  • I’ve been hearing this from neighbors and friends throughout the city, it can’t just be a one-off. What is going on?

  • Have you actually gone to your meter and read your numbers? You should be keeping track every month in order to double-check Pepco’s numbers.

  • Am I missing something here? From that screenshot your charges seem to directly correlate with the kWh used. March was much higher than Feb, etc. Are you disputing the rate at which you were charged, or that you didn’t use those kWh? We have gas for our heat, and our bill for the last month was the highest all year; DC had a really cold stretch during that billing period. If you have electric heat it would stand to reason that your last month’s readings would also be the highest. A Nest cannot magically make the effects of a cold snap go away; your utility usage is going to be higher no matter what.

    • Yep. I live in a one bedroom with electric heat and their bill seems about right. Winter sucks.

      • I live in a semi-drafty one bedroom with electric heat and keep the temperature around 60 when I’m at work at around 70 in the evenings, and my bill was only about $100 last month….

        • I have two extremely inefficient window units and I live in a drafty basement with tile floors. It’s a combination for a horrendous heating bill.

    • It was cold this winter, but these bills are way too high. I live in a big two bedroom condo with high ceilings and lots of windows, keep my heat unreasonably high (76-78 when I’m home), have all electric (no gas), and my bill’s never gone over $105.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Is your condo a converted rowhouse or is it a big apartment-style building. Whether the property is rented or owned and whether it is called a house or a condo is not particularly important. The structure of the building and the type of heating system that it has is very important.

    • Yes, there should be two screenshots one showing what we paid as per our bill, and a second showing what Pepco now says we paid which is about half as much. I’ll try to upload it again so that both are visible.

  • Obviously something is zap your energy. I have an old 107 year old 4 bedroom row house with the original windows(which I will replace this year). We also use the NEST and keep it at about 72 degrees when home in evening and for an hour or so in Morning and about 67 degrees at all other times. Our bill for February was about $80 and the month before it was around $125. Do you have any devices plugged in that use a lot of energy. What appliances to you have? Did you have an inspection on your electrical? IF this is in error, that is great and Pepco can credit your account, but it appears to not be the case….

  • I have lived in a 2 bed one bath condo for a while now and the charges seem to get more outrageous every year. Also when I installed their Pepco digital thermostat my bills went up by about 10-15%.

  • A friend of mine was telling me that when his condo was built, Pepco had labeled or otherwise mixed up the meters to the units so he was paying the electric bill of someone else’s unit for months before realizing it. His long story short is that after months of dealing with Pepco to resolve the issue, he still isn’t sure his usage is correctly metered and billed.

    • My partner’s parents payed their neighbor’s electrical bill (along with their own) for something like 6-7 years without noticing. They eventually got a refund from Pepco to the tune of $10k+, so this definitely happens.

    • I had the exact same experience, although thankfully it only lasted for about one billing cycle. I unwittingly paid my upstairs neighbors’ bill because although my unit is “#1” by address, it is labeled “basement” by Pepco. The upstairs neighbors’ address is “Apt 2” but is “Apt 1” according to Pepco. Somehow my upstairs neighbors figured out what was going on, contacted Pepco, and they amazingly were able to sort it out for us. The amount I paid on our upstairs neighbors’ bill was credited to the “basement” account and now we are happily all paying for the correct meter. The only thing they couldn’t do was change “basement” to 1 and 1 to 2 in their system, which I assume will cause more confusion for the next set of tenants who move in.

      • Yep, I like 100% agree that the next people will have the exact same problems. And possibly others in the building are still. Make sure the landlord/property management company knows!

      • Leave a note in a kitchen drawer when you move out. The new tenants will find it and it will save them lots of headaches.

    • Interesting, that is quite possible as we are the end unit on a row of semi-free standing duplexes (not sure how exactly to qualify the structure, but it seems quite possible that this could be the case). Thank you.

  • The electric bill is split into two halves. The part that says “New electric supply charges-SOS Provider” is the charges from the company who actually generates your power, which isn’t necessarily Pepco. In your case, it is SOS, which is Standard Offer Service, meaning you didn’t choose a supplier, so Pepco is buying it from whoever they feel like and charge you their standard rates.
    ‘New electric distribution charges-Pepco’ is the charges form Pepco for distributing the power to your house.
    Your usage is really high. 3,447 kWh for a small condo is out of control. My best guess is that your heat pump is using the emergency heat. That mode uses a ton of juice, and could explain the big spike. Maybe it’s something to do with the way you wired your new thermostat? If the Nest were pushing the heat pump into emergency/aux heat mode every time it came on, then your usage might look like that.

    • I have heard of several instances where people installed the Nest thermostats wrong and ended up running emergency heat, or always running the AC compressor while simultaneously running the furnace, etc.

      I would get an HVAC guy to check your installation.

    • Yes if the heat pump is using aux/emergency heat I could easily see a bill being that high. We are in a 3 bedroom duplex with a heat pump and our February bill was $200 and we were very careful about not letting to aux/emergency heat come on. Space heaters and electric blankets are a good idea with heat pumps.

      Also if you’re adjusting the thermostat up and down that will raise the bill too. Heat pumps are extremely inefficient when it gets as cold as it was here this winter so they should be set at 65 and left there.

      If you have a “smart” meter you can see your daily/hourly use. Back when it was very cold in February we were using upwards of 150kwh a day. I imagine most of that was the heat pump!

      • Heat pumps suck. And suck a lot of energy. They are not designed for the winter we had this year — nor are they designed for a typical DC summer.

        • We just moved in December so I can’t speak to how it is in the summer. Our KWH usage on moderate days (around freezing) is quite reasonable though (30-50kwh).

        • “nor are they designed for a typical DC summer”
          Heat pumps are air conditioners that have a 4-way valve so that they can run in reverse. Saying a heat pump isn’t designed for a typical DC summer is the same as saying an air conditioner isn’t designed for a typical DC summer. If that’s you’re experience, your equipment is improperly sized. Also, modern cold climate heat pumps can operate down to 5F at 100% efficiency and as low -10F at 100% capacity.

    • “The part that says “New electric supply charges-SOS Provider” is the charges from the company who actually generates your power, which isn’t necessarily Pepco”

      In fact, PEPCO doesn’t generate power at all.

  • My bills haven’t changed much, but I know of others who’ve had large increases. Some people have noticed that the umber of days on their bills has changed and this accounts for all or some of the difference. Paying attention your own meter (not always easy in a condo/apt) is probably a good idea esp. if the number of days on your bill hasn’t changed much.

  • I just purchased a small house (2 bedroom as well) that is only electric. My first bill was $300 from Pepco. I sort of anticipated a pretty high one because it was the coldest billing period probably in the entire year, my heat ran pretty much 24/7 and often on aux heat because it was just too cold for the outside unit to keep up. Still, it was a bit shocking. But I figured with only electric to heat/cool, the coldest and hottest months will be really high.

    I also have the additional charge for “New electric distribution charges-Pepco” but because this was my first bill, I had nothing really to compare it to in order to know if that is normal. Please report back if you contact Pepco to find out. My hope is the next bill is considerably lower since it is warming up and the heat isn’t running non-stop.

  • Pepco did this to me last winter. I had 3 months of $300 plus in electric bills for a one bedroom. They just kept saying they could do an energy audit but I knew it was not my usage. Fast forward one year and with the same amount of appliances, same type of heat, and pretty much the same situation my bills were no higher than $70 this winter. I think pepco randomly picks a group to overcharge to an extreme just for fun. Seriously, it was difficult to find help. I ended up paying because i could prove it wasn’t my useage. Try and find a time you weren’t home for a week and show them the usage for that week.

    May you succeed where I and many before you have failed. Vaya con Dios Amigo.

    • Thank you for your comment. We actually took over the condo November 1, but didn’t move in until December and still had a November bill over $80 with everything turned off…didn’t think anything of it as we had just moved in and had so much other stuff to deal with, but now I will definitely try to go back and see if they can explain that.

  • The problem isn’t the price, it’s the usage, which is high. February was terribly cold, and heat pumps become very inefficient in such cold weather — or maybe you’ve got electric baseboard heating, which is seriously expensive. I think I would start with an energy audit, to find out if you’ve got insulation or leakage problems.

    • My Jan and Feb electric tabs were high too but I put it down to the cold winter. My heat pump is noisy and let me tell you, it was working hard those two months. I attributed higher fees to that. See if the cost tapers off over the spring.

  • We noticed that our Pepco bill was higher this month and it turns out that we have the same new charge that you do: “New electric supply charges – SOS Provider”. Ours isn’t as much as yours (it’s a 1br). I think we’ll call Pepco to get it sorted out.

  • You can request a “high bill investigation” by calling Pepco and they have to send someone out. Also, do you have a smart meter? For us this solved the problem (we were being billed $500/month for a one bed/one bath). Good luck!

  • HaileUnlikely

    If you have gas heat, there is obviously a problem. If you have electric, note that it’s been f*cking cold out lately. My dollar amounts are not comparable because I have the friends and family rate with a great small clean energy supplier, however, my usage was just shy of 3000kWh for my last bill (~1200 square foot semidetached house), and I keep my thermostat at 64 when home / 61 when out.

    • How do you get rates from other energy suppliers? I’d be interested in switching to a clean energy supplier.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Call and ask. I use Ethical Electric and I recommend them. 100% wind & solar; portion of profits reinvested into wind farms and various progressive organizations which they list on their web site. They are currently offering 9.4 cents per kWh on a 3-month fixed followed by 9 month variable rate contract, and 12.3 cents per kWh on 12-month fixed rate. (go to their site, enter your address, and this information will come up on the left of the screen). I’m not sure what Pepco’s current rates are, but last I checked, EE’s 12-month fixed was a little higher than standard Pepco, but I deemed that worth it to support clean energy. If you want to shop around with others, Pepco has a list of other suppliers on their web sites, but you’d probably have to contact each individually to find out their rates.

    • justinbc

      64 when home, my lady would have my head…

  • HaileUnlikely

    P.S. The “New Energy Supply” and “New Energy Distribution” are nothing new, they just use different terminology on the bill now. Aside from standard government taxes and fees, you pay for two things: supply and distribution. On the bill they break supply and distribution into two components: any amount left over from your past bill that you didn’t pay yet, and the new charges that are for the current billing period. Hence “new supply charge” and “new distribution charge.”

  • This happened to us after moving into a new condo. It turned out that the meters had been mislabeled and we were actually being charged for our upstairs neighbor’s heat. Took FOREVER for PEPCO to believe there was an issue, but it was finally resolved.

  • Hm, this does seem high to me. I’m in a one bedroom plus den (maybe 750 square foot?) rental, and our last bill (same time period) was $135. I thought that was high, but attributed it mostly to the cold weather in February. Will be curious to see if this drops for March and April…

  • You have a smart meter, which generates data that is sent wirelessly to Pepco every 15 minutes regarding your usage. It is hard to dispute the usage data. Your screenshot above shows that in March you used many more kWh than the previous month. As someone mentioned above, you may have a heat pump for heating, which if it is set on auxiliary heat, will make your bill go way up. Other possible causes for the high usage are that you live in a two-unit row house condo and what you pay for is not what you use. For example, a heat pump for a common area hallway. Other than that, maybe a tankless water heater and a leaky hot water faucet? Take a look t your daily usage online, and see when you use electricity the most. Finally, talk to Pepco and make a bill claim. Their walk you through the online data and tell you when you used electricity the most. Chances are it was your heat pump running on cold days. Good luck

    • This is a tad unrelated, but do tankless water heaters use a great deal more electricity (assuming you have electricity versus gas heat) than traditional water heaters? I have what I thought was a sufficiently large hot water tank, and it works fine for a shower, but in a second bathroom I have a tub and noticed it was near impossible to take a real bath without running out of hot water. I had thought about investigating a tankless water heater (with the added advantage of not having a big water tank taking up room in my limited closet space).

      • Indeed. Tankless water heaters consume much more, but only on demand, rather than heating water all the time. So, in the long run, they consume less power than a regular water heat. You can have endless amounts of hotwater. with a tankless. A regular water heater is about 20 Amps. A small tankless is about 80 Amps. A medium one is about 120 Amps, and you would need to have spare breakers and a 200 amp panel. Talk to an electrician to see if you have enough space and power in your panel to install a tankless WH and what size you need.

  • Our gas bill was crazy high this month. Remember all that snow and cold weather we had? Yeah. That. It sucked.
    Your electric bill looks exactly like mine, except we have gas heat so ours was only $48.

  • I just moved into a new one-bedroom apartment and my Pepco bill this month was…wait for it…$555. I expected a somewhat higher bill due to all of the cold days and the draftiness that comes with a rowhouse (had an energy-star rated space heater in the bedroom because the heat didn’t seem to reach in there), but this is so completely ridiculous! Never in my life have I paid anywhere near this for an electric bill, and I’ve owned my own 3-bedroom house!

    • For what it’s worth, there is no such thing as an Energy Star electric heater. Electric heating is, by definition, 100 percent efficient. Killowatts of electricity are converted directly to btu’s of heat. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t horribly inefficient and expensive. That space heater is killing your bill. It was really cold this past few months. As the temperature outside drops, the electric heater ramps up the amount of electricity it is consuming to produce more and more heat to keep up with whatever you have set on the thermostat. If you are having trouble getting heat to one part of the house, but have adequate heat in the rest of the home, the least expensive way to redistribute the heat is to get a doorway fan to draw heat into the bedroom from the rest of the house.

  • HaileUnlikely

    P.P.S. Agreed with others on heat pump. If you do have a heat pump, check your NEST to see if its set to maximize comfort, balanced, or maximize efficiency (or maybe the call it maximize savings – you get the idea). If not set to maximize efficiency/savings/whatever, it’s probably making your auxiliary heat come on a lot, which is inefficient and expensive. If you do have it set to maximize efficiency/savings/whatever, I think there’s a good chance that it’s installed wrong and it’s is making your heat pump do something other than what you/it think it’s doing. That your bill was higher in each of the past 3 months than in the previous month is sensible based on the weather, but I’m somewhat dismayed to see that your usage billed in March was more than quadruple your usage billed in December (mine March was roughly double my December)

  • I had Pepco install that (idiotic) thermostat, which involved the electrician somehow blowing a transformer in my condo (how is that even possible?), and for the next three months my bills were sky high. After taking half-days off from work so Pepco could repeatedly come by and say nothing was wrong, I hired Frosty’s to come by and they found that when the Pepco-trician “fixed” the transformer he’d blown, he’d switched the wiring for the AC/heat, so the system was communicating to my HVAC to run AC while the heat was running (again, not sure how that’s even possible). Because of this, my system was running on emergency heat for those three months (although this wasn’t indicated on the wall thermostat), hence the ridiculous bills. Frosty replaced their thermostat with an good old fashioned Honeywell system, and everything went back to normal immediately (they switched the wires back, too). I tried to get Pepco to pay me for Frosty’s visits and/or the increased electricity bill, but no such luck. Pepco is the evil-est.

  • “Are there any other competitive providers who do not go through Pepco, or are they the only choice?”
    Lol. Just wait until the merger!
    Seriously though, even if absolutely everything in your place is electric, this seems high. In my ~2,200 sq ft house, gas and electric add up to $275 MAX. Usually more like $200. So yeah, way less than your electric bills alone. If you can’t pinpoint any obvious causes you might consider an energy audit.

  • If you have gas powered heat/ water heater/ etc then something is wrong. If you are all electrict, like me, then your bill is probably correct and your ussage is wrong. We have a heat pump and keep our heat set at a steady 60 degrees. We moved in last winter and having never had a heat pump before turned our heat up to 64 when we were home and dropped down to 58 when we were gone or sleeping. It turns out that constantly turning the thermostat up and down forces the heat pump in to aux or emergancy heat modes which waste electricity. We brought an HVAC guy out to inspect our unit, since we were convinced something was wrong. He was the one to point out that with a heat pump its best to find a constant setting and to just leave it. No adjusting. Nothing. He also recommended against getting Nest with a heat pump since that constantly adjusts your settings through out the day.

  • You can contact the DC Public Service Commission for help. My apartment was vacant for a year before I moved in; Pepco tried to bill me for that entire year’s worth of electricity. They wouldn’t budge until I got the PSC involved.

  • nightborn

    OP, are you me? This has been my bill as well… and we are also in a 2 bedroom. We don’t have a Nest though. We have had our heat on 68 (which means my fingernails are always blue) and it’s off while we are at work all day, and still it’s sooo high.

    • Off while you’re at work? Does that mean you turn it way down to 60, or worse turn it off completely? Because that’s your problem…the house cools way down and then you get home and turn it up and it has to work to heat the house back up. Best to find a temp and leave it at that as someone mentioned above. We leave ours at 65 for the most part.

      • I’ve done this throughout the winter, and I haven’t seen a bill over $100 for a 2bd/1ba. I do use slave heaters sometimes, so that could help. Also I kept mine off or at 64 & never saw blue nails, wasn’t shivering, etc. Is that common? I’m wearing normal stuff: sweatpants and a shirt.

      • Space heaters.

      • HaileUnlikely

        If we’re still talking heat pumps here, I have found that lowering it by not more than a couple of degrees works ok, saves some energy, and does not cause my auxiliary heat to kick on unless it is extremely cold out. Mine can handle a 2-3 degree difference between home vs. away (61/64 or 62/64), but not more. A programmable thermostat with a large number of periods per day (waaaay more than the 4 per day that most offer) could efficiently accommodate ramping the temp up from 60 to 61, from 61 to 62, from 62 to 63, … , from 67 to 68 over a period of a couple hours and still achieve savings, and there are a couple of thermostats on the market that can do this, but yeah, having your thermostat call for heating to get you from 60 to 68 in a single step (like most thermostats on the market would do) is going to kick on the auxiliary mode and use a ton of energy.

      • I think that really depends on the heat situation. I turn mine all the way down (electric with a knob – no thermostat, can set each room separately) while I’m at work, and then when I come home I turn on whatever room I’m in and keep the door closed. Works pretty well. When I keep it “on” consistently at a lower temperature, I actually find that my bill is significantly higher.

        • HaileUnlikely

          Do you have an electric heat pump? Baseboards? Regular electric furnace? The constant-temp stuff is specific to heat pumps.

          • That was my point. Mine’s a regular furnace but no one specified in the above posts what they were talking about exactly.

      • nightborn

        We turn it down to 60, not all the way off. We also started turning the heat down to 64-65 and using the space heater in our bedroom while we sleep. Our place is just under 1000 square feet, 2 br 2 ba – our January bill was in the low $300s, and February was mid $200s after we started turning the heat down at night. In the summer and fall it averaged $80.

  • Last winter I lived in a one bedroom English Basement with single pane windows and electric baseboard heat. I turned off the heat while away and at night. I had monthly bills as high as $150. If you have electric baseboard heat and single pane windows, your high bills don’t surprise me.

  • The same thing is happening to us! We live in a 550sf basement apartment and are very conservative with our energy use…yet our bills are $200+ and don’t seem to decrease at all with altered use, vacation time away from home, etc. VERY frustrating. Our upstairs neighbors have a place double the size + a full time nanny, so they use energy 24/7, yet they get half the bill.

    I’ve put multiple calls in to Pepco and have had a service order request to check for meter problems pending since February 2nd. One representative told me that they are reading off an electronic meter now – which provides the office with an “estimate” vs someone coming out in person to do a reading. Needless to say I’m very skeptical about its accuracy. I just emailed their customer advocate yesterday asking what is going on as well but no response yet…

  • Pepco is the worst. I just moved into a new condo and called them no less than five times to tell them my meter was for Apartment 410 NOT Apartment 401. They kept insisting I was the one who was wrong then suddenly cut my electricity two nights ago. Eight calls later and their constant insistence my lack of power was my building’s fault, I finally got it through to them that they had made the mistake. Only cost me a day’s work and $120 for an electrician to come out and tell me Pepco was not supplying any power. Sorry a bit unrelated to a high bill, but I had to vent that they are just terrible.

    • Also, the pricing for electric seems all over the place. Granted, I don’t have electric heat, so I know that makes a huge difference, but last month my bill was $28 for a one bedroom apartment. In the hundreds for a condo seems insanely high. My three bedroom townhouse never had that high of a bill even in the middle of summer with AC blasting.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Large building vs. rowhouse (condo in converted rowhouse = rowhouse) vs. detached house are three totally different things. Heating *your unit* in a large building is much much cheaper(***), because you basically get to free-ride off of bills paid by management to heat the common areas, as well as heat rising from the unit below you if you’re not on the lowest floor. Being in a house (especially a detached one) is totally different, as all walls are exterior walls, the other side of which are not heated by somebody else.

        (***Sure, you’re not free-riding, in that management surely rolls their costs into your rent or condo fees or whatever, but from the standpoint of your electric bill, it’s not even remotely comparable.)

      • Pricing is not all over the place. It’s heating/cooling requirements and types of heating/cooling systems that vary wildly. You can’t blame Pepco for that.

  • Just as a comparison, I have a heat pump, live in a 2 bedroom, 2 bath, 1000 sq feet unit with a drafty front room. My winter bills range from $130-$180. I do not like to be cold, and keep my unit between 70 – 72 at all times (I work from home). I turn the heat way down when I go out of town. I also use a space heater in the drafty room.

  • Have them come out and physically read the meter. I’ve had this happen in the past where they are charging you for the wrong meter.

  • Your problem might actually be the Nest thermostat. I’ve heard of some of them being buggy and actually not being efficient at all.

  • I can just about promise you it is the NEST causing the problem. Someone mis-wired it and it is running the electric strip heater 24-7. Get an HVAC tech out to fix it. Happens a lot more than people think. Handy homeowners are quite often too confident in their abilities and the simple task of replacing a thermostat ends up costing more per month than the device cost to install.

    Now, this is all assuming that you are running a gas furnace or a relatively decent heat pump. If you have an old school electric furnace or a heat pump from 1987- then you are just paying the price for a cold winter combined with crappy equipment.

    For a point of reference, I have a 1500 sq ft brick row house, I have electric baseboard in the basement, mini-split heat pump on the main and upper floors and we had to supplement with space heaters all of February- our bill was in the high 300’s. But, that’s the price of living in a glorified cinder-block with single pane windows.

  • Thanks for the comments, at least I know where to start now before I try to argue with Pepco. To clarify, we live in a semi-detached duplex on the first floor and have a heat pump. Also worth mentioning that we didn’t move in until December so the power was completely turned off for November (usage 745 kWH…) and we were out of the country for four weeks, also with the power turned completely off for December 12-Jan 14 (usage 1250 kWh…) which is what makes me think that the usage is actually in error, or maybe we are being charged for the wrong meter as many people pointed out….

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