Between her home, volunteer efforts and rental properties, Brenda Scally of Saco is responsible for 10 different accounts with Central Maine Power, and every one of them has had a major issue with billing, she said. So earlier this week she joined with dozens of other aggrieved ratepayers in filing a series of complaints with state regulators asking them to kick Maine’s largest utility out of the state.
Scally shared some of her experiences with CMP under oath at a Maine Public Utilities Commision public hearing in July. For example, one of her elderly tenants in a small apartment received bizarrely high electricity bills, she said. Eventually, she found out CMP was billing the tenant using data from somebody else’s smart meter.
She also received a June bill, which she shared with the Bangor Daily News, that displayed an obvious arithmetic error in the section of the bill displaying her total usage.
In another instance, Scally acquired a new property in Whitefield and initiated electric service there. After two months, CMP removed the meter and shut power off without telling her or her tenant, she said. When she asked CMP why it had removed the meter, she was told it had been inactive for years. When she asked CMP to bring it back, she was told the property needed to be inspected. She called again and was told that, actually, it did not need an inspection and that somebody would be right out. The company then installed a broken meter, which workers had to come back and replace, she said.
CMP has repeatedly told the press it cannot comment on individual customer stories and accounts.
“Each time you call them, it’s hours to deal with it,” said Scally, who works for New England Heat Pumps and is familiar with the world of electricity usage and billing. “It’s a full-time job just to deal with CMP.”
Fed up, she gathered signatures near her local polling place on Election Day to file a group complaint with the Maine Public Utilities Commission. The complaint asked regulators to replace CMP with another utility and effectively banish the company from the state. Scally’s is the third such complaint filed by ratepayers in recent weeks.
“Central Maine Power can no longer be trusted in any area,” Scally said.
CMP has sought to have the complaints dismissed.
The complaints “draw broad conclusions that are not supported by facts, activity, lack of activity or deficiencies in CMP’s service,” CMP spokesperson Catharine Hartnett said.
Valery Harris of Brunswick, who helped start the effort, expects three additional complaints to be submitted before the end of the year, she said.
It’s been more than two years since CMP botched the rollout of its $57 million SmartCare billing system, which led to widespread reports of billing errors and customer service failures. Just last month, the Maine Office of the Public Advocate, which represents consumers in state regulatory matters, told the PUC the company’s billing problems had not been solved.
“To this day, CMP does not appear to have admitted the existence of a problem with SmartCare when the sheer number of complaints and the number of actual problems identified by the Commission, the parties, their witnesses and consultants belies any believable claim that ‘all is well,’” the Public Advocate’s Office said in a regulatory filing.