I'm looking for the right term for when a company charges you for something, knowing full well that they are not giving you what you are paying for.

Some background: My power company is charging me for something on my bill, and then on the same bill saying that they did NOT provide that thing. I've called them to get the charge removed but it is never taken care of. Of course, it's not quite so simple as they feel they have a right to charge me for it, but from my perspective, it's sort of fraud-like.

I'm trying to make my case in a written letter and I want to be able to say it with some impact, and I think the proper word will be useful here.

Terms that seem close but don't quite get it would be "fraud" and "unjust enrichment". I can't quite say "fraud" because technically, they are not deceiving me at all, as they are admitting that they are not providing the thing they are charging for.

There must be some good legal term that nails it.

EDIT: Perhaps "unjust enrichment" is correct. Here is the definition from Black's 8th Edition:

UNJUST ENRICHMENT unjust enrichment. 1. The retention of a benefit conferred by another, without offering compensation, in circumstances where compensation is reasonably expected. [Cases: Implied and Constructive Contracts 3. C.J.S. Implied and Constructive Contracts § 5.] 2. A benefit obtained from another, not intended as a gift and not legally justifiable, for which the beneficiary must make restitution or recompense. 3. The area of law dealing with unjustifiable benefits of this kind.

That accurately defines what I am saying they are doing. Compensation could reasonably be expected, but they are not offering the compensation required to receive the payment. It was not intended as a gift and is not legally justifiable. They are charging unwarranted, undue, unjustified fees leading to unjust enrichment.

I'm still unsure so I can't yet say this is the correct answer.

  • 1
    Calling a charge incorrect is more effective than labeling it ridiculous, egregious or anything. Otherwise, your letter responds to You're a baby with I'm not a baby. Just saying. Ah, @Lambie has it. May 4 at 14:37
  • 4
    That is called: overbilling or an overbilled item or overcharging.
    – Lambie
    May 4 at 14:38
  • 2
    It's sadly humorous that your power company is gaslighting you.
    – NovaDev
    May 4 at 16:09
  • dishonest charges (as in illegal) sounds like something a lawyer might say. It is not a term, per se.
    – Lambie
    May 7 at 14:01
  • 1
    As a happy ending to the story, I reported them to PUCO (public utility commission of Ohio) and they went to bat for me. I ended up getting nearly $500 returned to me. I don't think my letter to them did anything, but notifying PUCO did. I referred to the fees as both erroneous and unjustified.
    – Benthink
    Sep 15 at 9:56

2 Answers 2


A term that conveys the idea you want to express is:


not due : not yet payable.


  • The fees are undue, but what is it when the company is billing you for those undue fees?
    – Benthink
    May 4 at 11:59
  • @Benthink that depends on the reason why the overcharged you. Whatever the case the amount of charges is undue. That’s the point.
    – Gio
    May 4 at 12:49
  • 1
    You've quoted the wrong definition of undue. May 4 at 14:27
  • Per @TinfoilHat, you must want #2: "Excessive," rather than the not yet due definition. May 4 at 14:33
  • Note that "undue charge" usually implies there's some value, but not as much as they charged. It seems wrong to use it when they charge for nothing.
    – Barmar
    May 5 at 19:11

The charges are at least nugatory. The word attributes a value of nothing to the charges, and at first sight does not capture the sense of dishonesty that you ask for. But a charge for a service that is stated as not provided is not really dishonest, so I suggest that nugatory is - on reflection - appropriate.

nugatory, adjective formal:
worth nothing or of little value:

  • 3
    Nugatory would apply to a service that you don't think is worth paying for. I don't see how it applies to the charge itself.
    – Barmar
    May 5 at 19:09

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