All is not well in Delaware (Connectiv) : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread Conectiv blasted for errors New system flaws cause incorrect bills By BILL YINGLING Staff reporter 01/15/2000

Delaware Public Service Commission Chairman Robert McMahon said Friday he is frustrated with Conectivs efforts to solve its electric and gas bill problems.

"This thing about all the complaints is a further verification that these people are not planning properly," McMahon said. "Im trying to help them but they just keep denying that something is wrong. I just dont know how to cope with that."

Conectiv spokesman Ted Caddell would not respond to McMahons criticisms. But Caddell said the company will correct all of its billing mistakes. The corrections, however, could take several months, a company executive said.

Conectiv executives blamed incorrect customer bills on a new computer system they installed in December.

Conectiv is waiving late fees for current bills. It also is not shutting off power to any delinquent customers, Caddell said.

McMahon criticized the states largest electricity supplier a day after Conectiv said its new computer system created errors in monthly bills that wound up in customers mailboxes. The flawed bills prompted thousands of customers to call Conectiv and state regulators during the past few weeks.

Company executives said they continue to review bills and listen to customer complaints. Caddell said the company plans no special audit to make sure customer accounts have been properly credited during the transition to the new system. Customers should scrutinize their bills and contact the company with concerns, executives said.

That approach to solving the problem is not acceptable, said Bruce Burcat, the PSCs executive director.

"Its the company that has the burden to look at these bills and determine if there should be a credit," Burcat said. "The burden should not be on the customer."

Conectiv has 1 million customers in four states. In Delaware, the utility has 265,021 electric and 100,00 gas customers.

J. Mack Wathen, Conectivs director of finance and regulatory affairs, sent a five-page letter to the PSC Friday explaining the companys efforts to fix the new system.

The companys highest priority has been making sure the system calculates bills correctly, he said. The bills have a new design and Wathen said cosmetic changes are a lesser priority.

"The company is making great strides in fixing and eliminating problems, and is starting to be able to implement and program some lower priority issues," Wathen wrote.

But Connie McDowell, the PSCs chief of technical services, said her staff received 150 complaints Friday. The commission usually receives about 10 complaints a day, McDowell said.

Caddell said call volume remained high Friday at Conectivs new call center in Carneys Point, N.J., as the company continued hearing complaints.

Caddell gave no numbers regarding Fridays calls. But he said the company received 12,000 calls related to the new bills over the last two weeks. Of those, 6,226 callers said they had not received a bill, 1,503 said their bills were not correct and 1,244 said payments had not been credited.

McMahon said Conectiv executives assured the commission last month that problems with the new billing system had been solved. The system was installed six months behind schedule and company executives wanted it in place before the new year.

Company executives said they have been trying to catch flaws in the bills since the first ones were mailed in December.

Wathen said teams of workers from throughout the company examined each bill by hand, screening them for flaws. As mistakes were discovered, they were put on a list for programmers to solve. Still, some incorrect bills were mailed.

Managers identified 1,200 software problems at the start of the computer conversion. But the company said the number has since decreased to about 200.

"The bills that are arriving in mailboxes today may contain errors that were corrected two weeks ago. Those errors will not reoccur," Caddell said. "Unfortunately, when you make a change this major in nature, there are probably going to be some problems."

Conectivs billing problem has emerged in the middle of a PSC investigation into the companys

customer-service operation. That probe, along with another into the reliability of Conectivs electricity supply system, could lead to financial penalties against the company under state law.

Until now, the PSCs look at the new billing system has been informal. But McDowell said the information from these events could be folded into the existing customer-service probe, which grew from power outages during the summer. The commission also could use it as the basis for a third investigation.

Meryl Gardner, a business professor at the University of Delaware, said with competition emerging in the electric industry, Conectiv could lose customers if its not careful.

"They can expect customers to wait but they cant expect customers to forgive and forget," she said. "They shouldnt be taking customers for granted but the reality is, they are, and theyre getting away with it for now."

-- Here Ya Go (, January 16, 2000



Great post. As we've seen in this and the other Connectiv articles, they put in a new computer in *December*. Now, who in their right minds would have put in a system in December unless they had to because of y2k?

Thus we can conclude one of 2 things:

(1) The Connectiv IT people were bonkers, or at least careless. OR (2) They had a system which was not-ready for prime time because it was a forced upgrade. Classic y2k issue.

-- Bud Hamilton (, January 17, 2000.

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