I-Team: CMP looking at billing system as possible cause for high bills

CMP headquarters in Augusta (WGME)

STATEWIDE (WGME) -- Central Maine Power is looking for faults in its new billing system as customers continue to express concerns about record-high electricity bills, a CMP spokesperson told the CBS 13 I-Team late Friday afternoon.

The I-Team uncovered widespread spikes in electric bills and took that information to CMP and state regulators.

[PUC Consumer Assistance Hotline: 1 (800) 452-4699]

For weeks CMP said the spike in usage was likely because of January's cold weather, broken appliances, or because customers got hot tubs or heat pumps.

We asked for our viewers to send us their bills and we got hundreds.

Our analysis found that on average, daily usage more than doubled from January 2017 to January 2018 -- even in places where the lights and heat were off, including at Sabrina Gowell's camp in Monmouth.

The camp is closed for the season but her January bill shows usage more than tripled compared to the same time last year.

"There's nothing going, nothing at all. It's impossible. There's no way. Like I said, there's nobody here. There's no way we could use that much electricity," Gowell said.

Hundreds of customers across CMP territory told the I-Team that they were baffled by their bills.

We collected those bills and spent days putting hundreds of pieces of data into a spreadsheet.

We found a clear pattern and brought what we found directly to CMP in a series of phone calls and on-camera interviews.

"Is it realistic to think all hundreds of these people though have a faulty appliance?" I-Team reporter Marissa Bodnar asked.

"It's hard to say what could be going on. You really don't know exactly what might be happening unless you're in that home," said CMP spokesperson Gail Rice on Thursday.

Friday afternoon she said the company's statement had evolved to more clearly acknowledge the possibility that the problem could be on their end.

We understand customers’ concerns, and we know some feel that factors beyond cold weather and supply price increases may be affecting their bills. While we have not found any systemic problems with our new customer care system, we continue to look for any faults that could affect bill accuracy. We are committed to working with customers to determine what is behind the high usage being recorded at their homes. If any errors are found to be on the part of CMP, we will correct the problems and adjust customers’ bills under the terms of our Customer Service Guarantee. We look forward to answering any questions the Maine Public Utilities Commission may have about metering, billing, and customer communications.

On Thursday state regulators at the Public Utilities Commission began the process of initiating an investigation into metering, billing and customer communications pertaining to Central Maine Power Company after the I-Team handed over what we found to the PUC and Public Advocate.

"No one has looked at it like you have so far. On behalf of our office, thank you, on behalf of the ratepayers, thank you," said Public Advocate Barry Hobbins.

The PUC commissioners will decide on Tuesday whether to move forward with a formal investigation.

[PUC Consumer Assistance Hotline: 1 (800) 452-4699]

Is your bill shockingly high? Send it to tips@wgme.com

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