AUGUSTA (WGME) - More than 6,000 Central Maine Power customers have received credits on their accounts after the company admitted to state regulators it violated consumer-protection rules.
In a recent filing, CMP reports that $500,344 worth of credits have been applied to the accounts of 6,373 customers, representing an equal credit of $78.51 per customer.
Refund checks were sent to 124 customers who no longer have an active account.
The penalty was imposed after CMP sent collection notices to customers that incorrectly stated that the company could disconnect customers in arrears without the approval of the Public Utilities Commission during the winter period of November 15 to April 15.
The I-Team first flagged the issue for state regulators in March 2018 after hearing from customers who received the notices.
At the time, the PUC called the notices "inaccurate" and "potentially misleading."
According to the PUC, CMP was notified twice in 2018 that the winter-disconnection notices left behind after a site visit contained language that was inconsistent with state rules.
The utility was told to immediately stop using the notices.
The language at issue in the notices was the statement that if the customer failed to respond to the notice, the customer’s service could be disconnected during the winter period without the permission of the CASD or without the permission of the Commission.
During the winter period, PUC rules prohibit an electric utility from disconnecting a residential customer for non-payment without first receiving permission from the Commission’s Consumer Assistance and Safety Division.
CMP agreed to stop using the notices and told the I-Team and state regulators that the inaccurate language was removed.
However, in early 2020, some CMP customers again received notices stating that their service could be disconnected in the winter months without PUC approval.
After an investigation, state regulators ordered the maximum administrative penalty of $500,000.
The PUC ordered that the penalty be applied as bill credits no later than November 30 to low-income CMP customers who participated in the company's Electricity Lifeline Program.
After the PUC decision in August, CMP spokesperson Catharine Hartnett said the company had reviewed and rewritten all disconnection notices and other customer communications and "will continue to work diligently so that all customers are treated properly and with respect."