In an effort to restore customer trust, Central Maine Power Co. said Thursday that it will offer a $25 credit for any bill that is late or inaccurate.
Customers also will be credited if the company misses a scheduled service appointment without notifying them at least four hours in advance.
The electric utility, which has more than 600,000 retail customers, said its enhanced customer service guarantee for all customers is effective this week. The company said it will apply a credit if it or the customer notices a discrepancy.
David Flanagan, executive board chair of CMP, positioned the new program as a way for the company to be accountable for its service. He said it resulted from customers expressing lingering concerns about their bills.
CMP has been under fire from customers and regulators since the October 2017 wind storm, which coincided with the installation of a new customer service system called SmartCare. Thousands of customers complained about ongoing high bills after the system was installed.
In January, the Maine Public Utilities Commission ruled unanimously that CMP must compensate customers who had a billing error, regardless of whether they filed a complaint.
In a second case, the commission ruled unanimously that CMP’s poor performance warranted a “management efficiency adjustment” that could cost CMP shareholders $10 million. That means CMP’s profits would be at least $10 million less for 18 months.
“As we have fine-tuned our new SmartCare system, and carefully tracked customer bills, we are confident enough to put our money where our mouth is,” Flanagan said. “As we continue to rebuild trust with customers, we are specifically guaranteeing that bills will be accurate and on time.”
Other parts of the plan include a credit of up to $250 on delivery charges on the first electric bill for new service if CMP doesn’t connect electricity by the date promised.
There are a couple caveats. One is that the guarantee doesn’t apply during a widespread outage. Another is that the $25 will not be applied if CMP is unable to read a meter.
“There are occasions when a meter can’t be read because of foliage or weak signals, in which case we will estimate the bill for that one month,” said CMP spokeswoman Catharine Hartnett. “We then gather data for the next month’s bill to true up the account. This is accepted practice. If there are inaccuracies in the final outcome we would provide the guarantee.”
The utility said the steps it has taken to rebuild customer trust include naming Flanagan to be executive board chairman in February, appointing Linda Ball as vice president of customer service, hiring more billing and customer service staff, adding training and hiring former state lawmaker Dawn Hill to help improve the company’s culture and reputation.