Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today praised a final Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC) decision that removes a provision that would have required the Town of Westport to fully pay a disputed $450,000 electric bill.
Instead, the decision enables Westport to fight the disputed costs, imposed after Connecticut Light & Power Company (CL&P) erroneously neglected to bill the town earlier, according to a news release from Blumenthal’s office.
“I am delighted that the DPUC, at my request, removed from its final decision a requirement that Westport pay a bloated $450,000 CL&P bill that resulted from the company’s failure to properly bill the Westport schools for months,” he said.
In his statement, Blumenthal welcomed the DPUC decision that requires strong continued scrutiny of CL&P’s meter testing and billing practices as well as an independent monitor to verify the company’s testing accuracy.
“This ruling imposes sorely needed scrutiny and accountability –addressing a dysfunctional meter and billing system – as I have repeatedly urged,” Blumenthal said.
“Strong independent and sustained scrutiny is necessary now more than ever. Consumer confidence in CL&P and Connecticut Natural Gas, as well as other utility companies, is at an all time low.”
Blumenthal said “shocking revelations” involving meter fluctuations and failures, billing errors and poor consumer relations argue for an industry-wide investigation.
“My office has a continued investigation into meter and billing blunders that impacted thousands of customers at both CL&P and CNG, and will continue to work with the DPUC to monitor complaints and company response,” he said.
“Today’s decision is only one step toward repairing a broken billing system, as well as consumer perception.”
The DPUC agreed to open an investigative proceeding at Blumenthal’s request after hundreds of consumers complained to his office and the media about CL&P’s response to customers who requested meter tests or reported questionable meter readings.
The investigation revealed that more than 6,000 CL&P meters fail each year. Today’s final DPUC decision requires that CL&P meet monthly with DPUC staff to review all new complaints and the status of old complaints. It would also call for goodwill credits to customers whose complaints have been handled poorly.
In order to restore customer confidence, the DPUC has required that, for one year, CL&P must have 10 percent of its monthly selective tests conducted by an independent facility as well as CL&P’s facility for comparison to ensure they are testing correctly, and 20 percent for tests originated by customer complaints.