State to audit Central Maine Power billing, metering system; company responds

Posted:  Tuesday, March 20, 2018 - 2:00pm
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AUGUSTA — Following the decision this morning, March 20, by the Maine Public Utilities Commission to conduct a forensic audit of Central Maine Power’s billing system, the company issued its own statement, saying it is reviewing customer billing complaints received this past winter, and has hired a new team to work on customer issues. CMP said it welcomes the PUC assistance.

The Maine PUC regulates utilities in the state, “to ensure that Maine consumers enjoy safe, adequate and reliable services at rates that are just and reasonable for both consumers and utilities,” according to its purpose statement.

As such, it fields complaints, and investigates, like a court.

In the case of Central Maine Power, the PUC received many complaints from customers citing spikes in bills since December 2017. Residents across Maine have been posting complaints on business bureau sites and Facebook.

At its Feb. 27 meeting, the PUC agreed to initiate an investigation into the matter of the complaints. At its March 20 meeting, the PUC went further and approved circulating a request for proposals for technical expertise to conduct a forensic audit of the metering, billing and customer communications pertaining to CMP.

The audit will help the overall summary investigation of the complaints, agreed the three PUC commissioners, Chairman Mark Vannoy, R. Bruce Williamson and Randall D. Davis.

(Click here to watch the March 20 PUC proceedings. The CMP billing discussion begins at minute 43.)

That ongoing summary investigation is in its discovery phase, the PUC commissioners noted, and the management audit will add information. 

The PUC will circulate RFPs for the audit, and then select which entity will conduct it. The process will take some time, commissioners said, adding that the results will be useful, regardless of the findings.

By 2 p.m., March 20, CMP, which is a subsidiary of Avangrid, issued its own news release on the PUC decision.

“Over the past several months, Central Maine Power customers have submitted a larger than normal number of complaints relative to high electric bills,” said CMP CEO Doug Herlig, in the release. “We take these complaints seriously and are taking steps to address each and every one. Many of our customers live on tight budgets and sudden increases can put a significant strain on people’s lives. 

“Today, the Maine PUC announced it will launch its own audit of our systems to ascertain what may have caused the increase in complaints. We welcome the PUC’s assistance and look forward to working together to ensure that our customers are being billed fairly and accurately. 

"Our customers want their lights to turn on. They want their rates to be as low as possible. And they want us to help them when problems arise. We understand and to that end, we are working hard to analyze each complaint.

“We have trained a new team of dedicated experts to work on customer issues and ensure that complaints are reviewed promptly and thoroughly. That team is currently working through our entire list of complaints and resolving outstanding inquiries as quickly as possible.   

“At the same time, we are conducting our own comprehensive review of the complaints to determine what the underlying causes were for the increases.  Any detected errors will be fixed and those customers will be made whole.

"We want to assure our customers that CMP takes billing complaints very seriously and we promise to work with them to fully understand and resolve this issue.”

 

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Reach Editorial Director Lynda Clancy at lyndaclancy@penbaypilot.com; 207-706-6657