MAINE, USA — Central Maine Power is once again under investigation by the Maine Public Utilities Commission, according to MPUC administrative director Harry Lanphear.
On Thursday, the MPUC launched its investigation into CMP following a notice by state representative Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham) alerting the MPUC of improper disconnect notices issued to customers that say CMP may discontinue service without the approval of the MPUC.
"The comment that I posted showed examples of the behavior that I found to be misleading...egregiously misleading. In fact, a flat out lie," Berry said.
Berry was alerted of the issue on Wednesday and filed a public comment with the Public Utilities Commission Thursday. According to Berry and Lanphear, the investigation was launched hours later.
“Nobody can be disconnected without our approval,” Lanphear said. “We consider this to be a very serious issue.”
Lanphear said Central Maine Power is required to file with the MPUC if they wish to disconnect a customer's service. According to Lanphear, CMP has not issued any request to them to disconnect service for any customers this winter. They did not request any last winter either.
"It needs to stop. There needs to be a cease and desist order," Berry said. "They should not be allowed to threaten people with disconnection on a date certain when they know very well they can't do that."
Central Maine Power is required to request approval from the MPUC before disconnecting service between November and April, according to Lanphear.
Lanphear said the MPUC became aware of this today and quickly launched its investigation, “which is very rare,” said Lanphear.
Central Maine Power responded to NEWS CENTER Maine’s request for comment on Friday, issuing the following statement:
"CMP is following a standard, regulated and years-old communications procedure for customers who are behind in paying bills. Our primary goal is to get the customer to contact us to discuss the bill and overdue charges and agree to a reasonable payment arrangement and to identify any assistance programs to pay overdue charges. Every piece of communication emphasizes that the customer should call us.
Here is the process- we take the next step if the customer does not contact us.
- Present overdue amount from previous month on the monthly bill with a bill message that calls attention to the overdue amount
- Mailing overdue notices requesting the customer contact us
- At least two phone calls to the customer, leaving messages if the customer does not answer, asking the customer to contact us
- A visit to the premise to reach the customer and determine if the residence is occupied. We leave a packet of information for the customer indicating that we may disconnect if they do not contact us for a payment arrangement
- If still no contact from the customer, we send a follow up letter indicating that we may disconnect if the customer does not contact us to enter into a payment arrangement
If, after all of these points of contact, we have still not heard from the customer, we may disconnect a property we deem to be unoccupied without specific PUC permission. If the premise is occupied, CMP seeks MPUC permission.
CMP wants to offer every opportunity to create a payment arrangement that is as manageable as possible and identify assistance programs that helps customers maintain service and manage debt."
This story will be updated.
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