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List of issues in Potomac Edison meter-reading case finalized

July 04, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

A list of nine issues to be addressed in the Potomac Edison meter-reading case before the Maryland Public Service Commission has been finalized, according to documents posted on the PSC’s website.

The issues list, submitted June 24 by attorney Joseph G. Cleaver of the state’s Office of People’s Counsel, has been accepted by all parties involved, including the PSC, OPC, Potomac Edison and four of the five people who petitioned to intervene in the case.

The investigation stems from formal complaints filed against Potomac Edison, some dating as far back as May 2012. Several utility customers from Western Maryland claim they’ve been overbilled because Potomac Edison failed to read their meters as often as required by law.

Issues on the list include several questions related to Potomac Edison’s conduct in regard to obeying its tariff and utility regulations, as well as what steps have been taken to correct the meter-reading problems.

A timeline has yet to be finalized for public hearings before Public Utility Law Judge Dennis H. Sober to gain further input on the matter, according to PSC spokeswoman Regina L. Davis.

However, Peggy Kaplan, an intervener in the case from Frederick, Md., said Tuesday in an email that hearings could be held sometime in October.

“We are negotiating the timeline now,” she said.

Kaplan said she and her husband, Doug, were “mostly” satisfied with the list of issues, although she would have liked to see some of the issues broadened to include other complaints filed in 2007 and 2008.

“We are concerned that PE will refuse to address the older complaints and blame the entire problem on the switch to FirstEnergy, though the problem has been ongoing since at least 2007,” Kaplan said. “But, we are working closely with the other intervener and with the Office of People’s Counsel and we had to compromise.”

Potomac Edison officials have said the company’s policy is to take an actual meter reading one month and use an estimate the following month.

The complaints allege that the practice was not carried out properly, resulting in usage estimates that exceeded the amount of electricity consumed.

“We were able to work together to create a list of issues, and what we’re trying to do now is create a schedule for the proceedings going forward,” Potomac Edison spokesman Mark Durbin said Wednesday. “... Regarding the substance of the issues, nothing has really changed with what we’ve previously said.”

Potomac Edison, which is owned by FirstEnergy Corp. of Akron, Ohio, has acknowledged that it missed some readings in the past, but said its estimates were fair. Company officials have said that they’ve put more meter readers in the field to correct the issue.

Kaplan said she is “not confident at all” that the meter-reading situation will be brought to a resolution for utility customers.

“In fact, it may be a futile exercise,” she said. “We really respect (Judge Sober) ... but the PSC has not met its responsibility to enforce the every-other-month rule for a very long time. I hope now is the time it changes.”

Asked what a favorable outcome in the case would be, Kaplan said she would like to see Potomac Edison forced to pay a penalty and possibly a rebate to ratepayers who have been adversely affected by the overbilling practices.

“I guess what I’d especially like is a more friendly, easier access for people with complaints along with action to solve the problems, rather than a policy that ignores and puts off until folks quit trying, which is what I think has been happening,” she said.


Issued to be addressed

The following is the list of issues to be addressed in the Potomac Edison meter-reading case before the Maryland Public Service Commission:

1. Did Potomac Edison (PE) violate its tariff or any applicable laws or regulations as a result of the frequency of its meter reading, and if so, which provisions of its tariff or laws or regulations did it violate?

2. What steps has PE taken since May 18, 2012 — the date on which the Commission notified PE of a formal complaint from Mr. Richard Tufts concerning the frequency of PE’s meter reading — to ensure that its customers’ meters are read in accordance with its tariff and with all applicable laws and regulations?

3. What additional steps, if any, should PE be required to take to further ensure that its customers’ meters are read in accordance with its tariff and with all applicable laws and regulations? Should PE’s performance be monitored going forward and, if so, how?

4. What is/are the method(s) used by PE to estimate its customers’ bills to ensure that they are reasonable, accurate and utilize industry best practices? How does the meter-reading process and associated cost compare to those used by other power companies?

5. If PE failed to perform actual meter readings on a timely basis, did this failure impose burdens on customers, including (a) service terminations that occurred because of overcharges on estimated bills; (b) service terminations that occurred because of true-up adjustments to reconcile prior estimated bills; or (c) costs associated with the time value of overcharges on estimated bills?

6. If PE failed to perform actual meter readings on a timely basis, what steps has PE taken to remedy negative impacts (if any) on PE’s customers resulting from PE’s failures to comply with the meter-reading provisions of its tariff and/or any applicable laws or regulations?

7. What customer feedback mechanism does PE have to appropriately address customers’ concerns about estimated bills or meter reading, and are PE employees properly trained to address these concerns?

8. If PE failed to comply with the meter-reading provisions of its tariff and/or any applicable laws or regulations, what changes, if any, should be made to PE’s tariff?

9. If PE failed to perform actual meter readings on a timely basis, what additional actions, if any, should the commission take?

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