The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

State News

June 2, 2013

FirstEnergy billing to be probed

CHARLESTON — Mon Power and Potomac Edison’s billing and meter-reading practices will be investigated by West Virginia regulators.

Public Service Commission general counsel Richard Hitt sent a letter about the investigation last week to elected officials in the FirstEnergy subsidiaries’ service territories, The State Journal reported.

The investigation involves estimated bills and stems from about 70 formal complaints and 750 informal requests for help related to billing disputes over the past year, Hitt wrote.

“The commission and its staff are very aware of and responsive to the magnitude and nature of public concern,” Hitt wrote.

FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Meyers said there were a series of issues connected with Hurricane Irene in 2011, severe windstorms in June 2012 and Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. There also were issues stemming from FirstEnergy’s acquisition of Mon Power and Potomac Edison from Allegheny Energy in 2011.

The companies base bills on alternate months of reading meters and estimates.

Meter readers might miss some meters during storm response because they are called off their routes to watch downed power lines until line crews arrive. These meter readings are not made up, which can result in customers receiving estimated bills for three consecutive months. When these meters are read in the fourth month, the bills can be large, Meyers said.

Earlier this year, a one-time long billing cycle created problems primarily in the Eastern Panhandle as meter-reading routes were adjustments, he said. The adjustments were part of the transition from Allegheny’s system.

“It’s a great thing and it’s timely and it’s been needed for a while,” Keryn Newman with the Coalition for Reliable Power said of the commission’s investigation. “A lot of people are suffering because of this.”

Newman said she hopes that the PSC will require the companies to file a base rate case and refund to customers any unspent money that was collected toward meter reading.

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