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February 7, 2019

PUC threatens sanctions if CMP fails to resolve customer service problems

Photo / James McCarthy
Photo / James McCarthy
Maine Public Utilities Commission warned Central Maine Power Co. Wednesday it could face a $500,000 fine and other sanctions if the AVANGRID-owned utility did not immediately address ongoing customer service problems.

Maine Public Utilities Commission warned Central Maine Power Co. Wednesday it could face a $500,000 fine and other sanctions if the AVANGRID-owned utility did not immediately address ongoing customer service problems.

In a letter sent by email to CMP President and CEO Douglas Herling, Derek D. Davidson, director of the PUC's Consumer Assistance and Safety Division, outlined three concerns that he said needed to be addressed immediately to avoid possible PUC-imposed penalties:

  • The number of new and existing customers that are not receiving monthly bills.
  • Failure to refer customers who've fallen behind on their bills to the Efficiency Maine Trust, which has a program designed to help such customers enroll in a payment plan with the utility and which gives them information about energy-saving options along with a free offer for a do-it-yourself electricity-use reduction kit.
  • The company's "continued slow response to customer complaints."

Davidson also warned CMP that its alleged failure "to issue bills to thousands of new and existing customers" since the implementation of its new SmartCare billing system on Nov. 1, 2017, "is a direct violation of the Commission's rules." He also conveyed the PUC's dissatisfaction over what he characterized as CMP's "clearly insufficient" efforts to address customer complaints, "or contact customers who have complained."

"As of today, information provided by CMP indicates that [its specialized response team] has failed to reach and resolve over 1,000 customers referred to it by the Commission's Consumer Assistance and Safety Division," Davidson wrote.

Davidson wrote that if CMP failed to respond sufficiently to those outlined concerns, the PUC could impose "administrative penalties of up to $500,000" and even require CMP to turn over "profits or revenues" that might result from the utility's failure to meet its customer service requirements under PUC rules or orders.

"Failure to resolve these issues in an expeditious manner may result in the Commission taking enforcement action under one or more of the statutory provisions cited above," Davidson wrote, adding that other "remedies" could be imposed under the PUC's current rate investigation.

CMP spokeswoman Catharine Hartnett told the Portland Press Herald, "We take the issues very seriously and intend to respond."

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