Potomac Ed probe demanded

CHARLES TOWN – Jefferson County Delegate Stephen Skinner has requested that the state Public Service Commission investigate Potomac Edison’s billing and business practices, even as PSC officials say they are continuing to look into claims by individual ratepayers against the utlility.

In an April 23 letter to PSC Chairman Michael Albert, Skinner said he has received an “overwhelming number of complaints” from Eastern Panhandle customers of Potomac Edison.

“Right now, electricity consumers in the Eastern Panhandle are struggling to pay their rent, mortgage and grocery bills because of Potomac Edison,” Skinner wrote. “This is unquestionably the result of business practices at Potomac Edison: first, Potomac Edison did not adequately staff its meter readers in 2011 and 2012. This led to meters not being read in a timely manner. Second, Potomac Edison failed to estimate customer usage based upon seasonal and historical needs and trends. This led to underestimates and the expectation by consumers that their electricity usage was lower than it actually was.”

Last week, the PSC declined to launch a general investigation into Potomac Edison’s billing practices.

“Right now, the commission is continuing to work with Potomac Edison on the issue,” said PSC Public Information Specialist Martina Johnson Thursday. “Even though a general investigation has not been initiated, the Public Service Commission continues to work with Potomac Edison and First Energy on the individual complaints.”

The PSC could choose to launch a general investigation at a later date, Johnson noted.

Johnson said the number of informal complaints in the first four months of 2013 had more than tripled over the same period in 2012.

So far this year, 102 such complaints have been filed, compared with only 33 during the same period last year.

While First Energy’s tariff requires them to read customers’ meters once every two weeks, Johnson said reasonable exceptions were allowed. She said that the June derecho, for example, had pulled many meter readers off of their routes in order to assist with power restoration efforts, and this is seen as a reasonable exception.

She said that new complaints that come in will continue to be investigated.

“Every complaint is being looked at,” she said.

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