GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — State regulators have yet to decide whether to take enforcement action against Consumers Energy for allegedly violating standards regarding estimated bills.
The Michigan Public Service Commission launched an investigation in July after receiving “persistent” customer complaints about billing issues, malfunctioning meters and delays in new installations.
MPSC staff issued their final report on the inquiry Sept. 29, in which they noted the utility has made progress in fixing deficiencies that occurred as it transitioned from 3G technology to 4G technology.
“While (Consumers Energy) has corrected many aspects of the concerns brought forward, including system and process improvements that will enhance the customer experience, these situations should not have existed in the first place,” MPSC staff wrote. “Timely installation of new service, accurately measuring energy consumption, and accurately billing for that consumption are foundational components of utility service.”
Staff recommended that commissioners take enforcement action and penalize Consumers Energy for issuing too many estimated bills for more than two consecutive months.
Under Michigan’s administrative code, the utility must take corrective action if it fails to provide actual meter readings for more than two months in a row.
In a report issued Aug. 4, Consumers Energy responded to the commission’s inquiry, emphasizing its commitment to delivering “operational and accurate meters” and “a quality and timely experience” for new installations.
“(Consumers Energy) recognizes that its recent performance in both these areas has not always met the expectations of its customers or the Commission,” the utility wrote in its report.
Consumers blamed many of its recent problems on its meter vendor’s failure to provide enough 4G-compatible meters before the retirement of 3G technology in January 2023.
“But Consumers Energy did not anticipate that these meters would result in estimated reads, since Itron was contractually obligated to perform manual meter reads until the 3G meters were exchanged,” the utility wrote in its report. “Itron failed to provide enough meters … and also failed to provide an adequate number of meter reading staff beginning in January 2023 per their contractual obligation to ensure Consumer Energy customers received actual read bills.”
Commission staff also recommended that Consumers Energy not pass on to ratepayers any costs related to the problems it encountered during the transition from 3G to 4G.
In addition, staff encouraged commissioners to require the utility to report twice yearly on its efforts to remedy the billing and meter issues.
News 8 reached out to Consumers Energy for its reaction to the recommendations, but the utility did not address the request, instead sending a general statement.
“Consumers Energy is committed to doing right by its customers, and we are focused on continuous improvement,” Tracy Wimmer, media relations and spokesperson for Consumers Energy, wrote. “We are committed to delivering the service our customers and the MPSC expect, and we are reviewing the feedback from this filing to help improve our performance.”
The MPSC meets Tuesday.