Conectiv problems continue : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Conectiv action taken PSC filing has several demands By BILL YINGLING Staff reporter 02/19/2000

The Delaware Public Service Commission staff took its first formal action Friday to force Conectiv to correct problems with its new billing system and calm public anger.

After two months of listening to customers' complaints about inflated bills, long waits on the telephone for company representatives and rude and ineffective customer service, state regulators filed an emergency request to order Conectiv to:

% Immediately halt automatic payment withdrawals from customers' bank accounts until the customers decide to re-enroll for the service.

% Establish six walk-in service centers in Delaware -- two in each county -- where customers and company representatives can discuss billing problems in person.

% Conduct a public meeting in each county so customers can talk to Conectiv managers.

The staff also has asked regulators to launch a formal proceeding against the company to resolve disputes the staff has with Conectiv managers regarding the utility's billing practices.

The filing marked the first formal regulatory action against Conectiv regarding the computer billing system. The five commissioners will consider the emergency motion at a public meeting at 1 p.m. Feb. 28 at the commission's headquarters, 861 Silver Lake Blvd., Dover.

"The company's response to date has not been adequate," said Bruce Burcat, executive director of the commission. "We need action now and some of the proposals from the company would not get the immediate relief that we've been seeking."

Conectiv spokesman Mike Ratchford said the utility has been trying to solve its problems with the computer system and make it easier for customers to reach company representatives by phone.

"Our common goal here is to address customer concerns as quickly as possible," Ratchford said.

He said Delaware's largest utility has been conducting public meetings with community groups and it has been preparing to open several temporary walk-in centers.

The utility also has been increasing its staff of customer representatives and the number of telephone lines to answer consumer concerns, Ratchford said.

Conectiv previously said it will waive late fees and keep supplying power to delinquent customers until the billing problems are solved.

Ratchford said the company disagrees with the PSC staff's request to halt automatic payment withdrawals.

In cases where the company has withdrawn too much from a customer's account, Conectiv has tried to correct the error, he said. That includes paying any added expenses created by the mistake, Ratchford said.

Ratchford said neither the company nor a government agency should interfere with a customer's decision to have their utility payments deducted from their bank accounts.

The PSC filing Friday said in some cases, customers have not been properly credited for the amounts that were withdrawn from their checking accounts, and the company failed to fix the problem.

"The consequence of this inaction on the part of the company is to put the customer, rather than the company, at risk for mistakes ...," the PSC staff wrote.

PSC staffers said they have received 650 verbal and written complaints from customers.

If the billing problems continue, the staff said, Conectiv should defend its continued use of the new system. Conectiv also should tell regulators why it shouldn't be fined.

Commissioners have publicly criticized Conectiv, telling them to fix the customer service and computer problems. And PSC staffers have been negotiating with Conectiv managers, trying to agree on steps to solve the problems.

Since the new computer system was launched Dec. 11, at least 12,000 customers across the Delmarva Peninsula have complained about their bills.

Conectiv said it converted to the new system to help residential and small-business customers understand their energy expenses in a competitive market, which starts Oct. 1.

But executives also said they needed the system because Conectiv's old computers could have malfunctioned after the calendar changed Jan. 1.

see also

-- Martin Thompson (, February 19, 2000


Hurray! Executives said computers "could have malfunctioned after Jan.1" EXCUSE ME ISN'T THAT THE Y2K BUG? But of course, there was no such thing! ;-) I said on earlier posts about Conectiv that they were risky or crazy if they were upgrading in December without it being y2k. At least now, we know for sure that it was y2k. This story alone is worth the time at GICC; without GICC and the Net those of us outside the midAtlantic area *would not be even aware of this*!

-- Bud Hamilton (, February 20, 2000.

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-- Martin Thompson (, February 21, 2000.

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