PORTLAND, Maine — A day after telling regulators that it did comply with rules about winter electricity disconnection notices, Central Maine Power’s head said Wednesday that the company needs to respect its customers and will temporarily stop sending the notices.
“As a matter of fairness to all CMP customers, it is important to make every effort to collect on delinquent accounts. However, the language in our communications should reflect who we aspire to be as a company, and we must always be respectful of our customers’ needs and challenges,” CMP President and CEO Doug Herling said. “We should treat customers as friends and neighbors.”
He said the notices will stop until the company makes sure the wording in them is “consistent with regulatory expectations and the company’s values.”
The Maine Public Utilities Commission is reviewing CMP’s disconnection notices after several customers complained about notices that said CMP could cut off electricity without first getting the necessary permission from the commission during the winter season from Nov. 15 to April 15.
“Although we believe CMP’s winter disconnection-related communications were technically accurate and met regulatory requirements, we should have communicated more clearly and more respectfully with customers about when and how they could be disconnected as a result of nonpayment,” Herling said.
CMP said that if a customer whose payment is overdue has not responded to multiple collection attempts, including mailed notices, at least two phone calls and a residential visit, CMP may perform what is known as a “cycle disconnection” during the winter months without the commission’s approval. A cycle disconnection is a daytime-only disconnection that can be done under certain weather and occupancy conditions. Herling said CMP should have explained this better to customers.
CMP had until to tell the commission why it should not be penalized for giving some customers improper winter disconnect notices. In its 95-page filing fit said the notices did comply with rules, but that one type of notice was delivered by mistake.
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The so-called PV notice that was delivered to customers in January 2020 by two of CMP’s service centers inadvertently included outdated PV notices from 2017, CMP said. Twenty three customers in the Rockland service area and 79 in the Belfast area received the notices between Jan. 7 and Jan. 16 that said CMP could disconnect their service without the commission’s approval.
The commission on Jan. 21 voted unanimously to investigate allegations by consumers that CMP had sent improper notices. CMP was given until Jan. 28 to show cause why it should not be penalized.
The CMP response to the commission follows the filing of a lawsuit earlier Tuesday in Cumberland County Superior Court against CMP by three customers seeking class action status for disconnection notices.