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March 21, 2018

CMP welcomes audit of its billing system, will correct any errors

Courtesy / CMP Central Maine Power Co. President and CEO Doug Herling promises the company's full cooperation with the formal audit of its metering and billing systems launched by the Maine Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday.

Central Maine Power President and CEO Doug Herling issued a statement Tuesday promising the company’s full cooperation with the formal audit of its metering and billing systems launched by the Maine Public Utilities Commission in response to hundreds of customer complaints about unusually high electric bills.

“Today, the Maine Public Utilities Commission announced it will launch its own audit of our systems to ascertain what may have caused the increase in complaints,” Herling said in a written statement provided to Mainebiz. “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.”

Here's what the PUC is investigating

The three-member utilities commission voted unanimously Tuesday to hire an auditor to conduct a formal forensic evaluation of the metering and billing issues that CMP customers have raised in complaints filed with the PUC. 

In their March 1 order launching a summary investigation into almost 400 complaints about CMP’s metering, billing and customer communications practices that were reported to the PUC over the last several months, PUC Chairman Mark Vannoy and Commissioners R. Bruce Williamson and Randall Davis laid out the three-fold scope of the investigation:

Metering issues:

  • Are CMP’s meters accurately reading customer usage?

“We note that at the same time that CMP initiated its new billing system, CMP’s service territory experienced a severe storm which resulted in approximately 404,000 customer Interruptions,” the order stated, adding that PUC would be looking into the question of whether CMP’s meters are “accurately communicating” with its new billing system.

Billing issues:

  • Are CMP’s bills accurately reflecting usage?
  • Are CMP’s bills utilizing the correct rates?
  • Are CMP’s bills accurately calculating the total bill?
  • Is the company able to identify billing error problems related to its new CIS billing system?
  • What problems has the company identified to date?
  • Is the company properly addressing such problems?

Customer communication:

  • Is CMP answering and responding to calls from customers within a reasonable timeframe?
  • How has CMP reacted and responded to customer complaints on high bills?
  • Is CMP providing reasonable and adequate responses to customers’ calls?

Herling details CMP's ongoing response

In his written statement Tuesday, Herling acknowledged the burden high electric bills place on CMP customers and said the company already is “taking steps to address each and every one” of the issues raised in its customers’ complaints.

“We have trained a new team of dedicated experts to work on customer issues and ensure that complaints are reviewed promptly and thoroughly,” Herling stated. “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.”

Public Advocate requests hold on disconnections

In a related matter, Public Advocate Barry J. Hobbins asked the PUC in a March 12 letter to order “that CMP take no action on disconnections after the ‘winter disconnect’ period expires on April 15, 2018 and also order a stay on the issuing of any new disconnection notices pending the outcome of the summary investigation.”

The Bangor Daily News reported that PUC Chairman Mark Vannoy said the audit information will be added to the summary investigation to speed up the discovery process.

Read more

Class-action lawsuit filed against CMP over alleged overbillings

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