The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

July 21, 2013

PSC refuses to drop FirstEnergy investigation

MARTINSBURG — West Virginia utility regulators have rejected FirstEnergy’s request to drop an investigation into its meter reading and billing practices.

The Journal reports that the Public Service Commission announced the decision Friday.

The PSC launched its investigation June 7 after receiving numerous complaints from FirstEnergy customers about unexpectedly high electric bills and estimated meter readings. On July 1, FirstEnergy asked the PSC to dismiss the investigation as resolved.

“The commission does not find the current state of FirstEnergy customer service and billing practices to be satisfactory, nor does it believe that this proceeding should be dismissed,” the order reads.

Along with denying FirstEnergy’s request, the PSC ordered the utility to file statistical information on meter reading and billing practices and customer service for at least one year, beginning Aug. 15.

The monthly submissions will include information on current customer contact center metrics collected; the number and percentage of customers with two or more consecutive estimated bills rendered; the current number of budgeted meter reader positions and the current number of meter readers employed; the current status of the project to renumber meters and adjust meter routes; and the number and percentages of meter rereads.

FirstEnergy must also submit the number of complaints handled by the customer contact center with a breakdown by complaint type; the number and percentage of customer complaints resolved on the first call; and the number of customers placed on a deferred payment plan, and the percentage of those with two or more consecutive estimated bills.

“It’s clear the commission wants to look at this issue further, and we will comply with the commission’s order. We have continued to cooperate fully with the commission’s investigation — answering questions and providing information for the discovery process,” said Todd Meyers, communications representative for FirstEnergy.

Through information provided by FirstEnergy, the order reports that about 44 percent of FirstEnergy customers in West Virginia were unable to resolve a billing problem during their first customer service call in 2013. Also, 5.3 percent of FirstEnergy customers received two consecutive estimated bills and 2.2 percent received three estimated bills including the May 2013 billing cycle.

PSC staff will review and submit data analysis from the data after three and six months of filings. The PSC will monitor the statistical information for one year and, if deemed necessary, extend the monitoring period.

The order also says the PSC will hold public hearings throughout FirstEnergy’s service areas after receiving and reviewing two months’ worth of reports.

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