Central Maine Power technician Gary Sturgis installs one of the first "smart" meters at an apartment building in Portland in this Associated Press file photo. Credit: Joel Page | AP

The Maine Public Utilities Commission said Central Maine Power will not be allowed to disconnect certain customers while the company is investigated by the state.

In late February, the PUC launched an investigation into metering, billing, and customer communications at CMP after hundreds of customers complained of had high spikes in usage they couldn’t explain.

The public advocate requested that CMP not be allowed to disconnect anyone during the investigation, but the commission decided to take a more targeted approach.

They decided those customers with charges 25 percent higher than the same time last year cannot be cut off as long as they pay a portion of the bill.

“We want to provide consumer protections but we still expect consumers to pay a reasonable portion of their bill, so what we’ve really established today is kind of a generic, undisputed reasonable amount,” Mark Vannoy, PUC chairman, said.

The chairman says CMP will send a notice to customers explaining this change.

CMP spokeswoman Gail Rice said in a statement that company officials “feel the commission’s decision balances the need for our customers to pay for services they receive while protecting them from the possibility they have been improperly billed.”

“Central Maine Power understands that many of our customers live on tight budgets, and sudden increases in bills for essential services like electricity can put a significant strain on their lives,” she added, in part. “As soon as we review the specifics in the commission’s written order, we will work to make these adjustments as quickly as possible.

“Meanwhile, our customer service experts continue to research each and every complaint and resolve outstanding inquiries as quickly as possible,” Rice continued. “The examination of our customer care system continues as well, and if we find any error that contributed to high bills, we will fix it and all affected customers will be made whole. We also look forward to working with the MPUC’s independent auditor once it comes on board. Customer satisfaction is of the utmost importance to CMP. We continue to take every complaint very seriously and are working to resolve each and every one.”

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