Potomac Edison has been found in violation of their responsibility to provide timely meter readings. The order stated in part, “I find it was the management of PE and PE’s implementation of the tariff that was the cause of the high level of missed reads.”
After the defeat of the unnecessary PATH transmission project in 2011, Sugarloaf Conservancy, in response to member complaints about Potomac Edison’s meter reading practices, filed a complaint with the Maryland Public Service Commission on May 19, 2012.
This complaint alleged that Potomac Edison neglected to follow the terms of their tariff, which required them to read meters on a bimonthly basis. In many instances, we found that meters were being read only four times a year. Most importantly, the estimates were inaccurate, which for some caused severe problems when billing adjustments were made after an actual read.
Without action by the PSC, with the PATH project terminated, Sugarloaf Conservancy disbanded in December 2012. To my surprise, the PSC issued an order on April 9, 2013, almost a year after the complaint was filed. It called for an investigation to be conducted into Potomac Edison’s meter reading frequency, estimation of bills, and compliance with its tariff in this proceeding.
The case was referred to a hearing examiner and the proceedings moved at a snail’s pace. Initially, procedural issues were addressed; then, after settlement discussions were conducted without success, followed by a failed mediation effort, the judge ordered the case to proceed.
The order requires Potomac Edison’s tariff to be modified and to require them to read meters every month instead of their current practice of bimonthly. Currently they are the only utility in Maryland reading meters bimonthly.
Potomac Edison is required to offer a payment plan to those customers who receive a substantially low estimated bill, followed by a substantial catch-up bill the following month. They are also required to modify their bill to clearly show when an estimate occurs and the reason for not actually reading the meter.
A limited financial penalty of $25,000 was ordered with a comment that “violations of a similar nature in the future will not be so leniently addressed.” The final order requires Potomac Edison to submit a monthly report for 24 months to ensure compliance with the revised tariff.
It is our hope Potomac Edison will not appeal this ruling and accept their obligation to provide their customers with accurate and timely reading for their electric usage.
As the saying goes, better later than never. While it took four years from the initial complaint filed to issuing a ruling, I am pleased the PSC commissioners recognized their obligation to the Maryland ratepayers. I also want to express my appreciation of the hard work by individuals who devoted their time and much effort throughout the PSC hearing process.
writes from Frederick.