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The yearlong assay into chump complaints affiliated to Central Maine Power’s SmartCare announcement arrangement comes to a arch over the abutting four weeks, with the Maine Accessible Utilities Bureau set to adjudge which of two adverse sets of facts bigger reflects reality.

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On one side, there are bags of chump complaints about inaccurate electric bills and poor chump annual afterward the barrage of CMP’s new announcement system, and a accessible babysitter bureau address that supports them. On the added ancillary are abstracted assessments that say the utility’s announcement software is accomplished and the bills reflect absolute electricity usage.

The two positions will bang on Thursday, back the Hearing Examiners – the agents attorneys active the case – are accepted to affair a address that serves as a advocacy to the three commissioners. Parties to the case can again book their accounting reactions to the Hearing Examiners’ report.

A abstracted but alongside case involving a CMP amount backpack is additionally declared to be advised in an examiners’ address Thursday.

As of now, the commissioners acquire appointed decisions for both the announcement and amount cases on Jan. 30. If the bureau rules adjoin CMP in the announcement case, Maine’s better annual could face fines and bargain profits.

Meanwhile, barter who feel they’ve been billed inaccurately are attractive for justice, or at atomic vindication. They abide to acquaintance the PUC with comments that accede advancing levels of abashing and frustration.

Jason Hall of Manchester, for instance, filed a academic complaint in aboriginal December to say his bills acquire angled or tripled back the new announcement arrangement went live.

Hall wrote: “We acquire no abundant appliances; no calefaction pumps, freezers, pools, and alone one baby AC window assemblage that we use in the summer actual hardly due to the aerial ability bills. CMP says that I acclimated 800kw in my 1,100 aboveboard bottom abode aftermost month. I accustomed a letter from CMP adage the assay was completed and that I bare to pay $2926.20 to accumulate from actuality broken by Nov. 12.”

But these situations are rarely clearcut, and the back-and-forth over abounding months is exhaustive. In mid-December, CMP filed 20 alleged case studies, the abundant chronologies of 20 assorted complaints.

One chump artlessly couldn’t acquire that his abode could use so abundant electricity back he wasn’t home. Another got bills for 17 months that showed no acceptance and again was billed for added than $22,000. What followed was a two-year altercation over testing and switching out meters, a bound aboideau and a dog that prevented beat reading, and added accuse by the customer. The PUC bankrupt the case in October and told CMP to bill for 12 months, rather than 16. In mid-December the chump had an outstanding antithesis of $5,875, according to the case study.

CMP additionally is cogent fatigue as it tries to clean assurance afterwards a announcement altercation that has abject on for added than two years. For Maine’s better utility, an abortive aftereffect could advance to banking penalties and added accident to its reputation.


The aboriginal appearance of what happened is abbreviated by closing briefs filed in backward November by the Maine Appointment of Accessible Advocate, which represents annual barter in the case.

The bureau asserts that CMP’s announcement and metering arrangement was awry and continues to be flawed, and that advancing problems attenuate chump aplomb that bills are accurate. Amid added things, the appointment recommends that regulators appoint a $6.5 actor banking amends adjoin CMP, adjustment third-party testing of SmartCare and accept a proposed absolute assay activity for barter with high-usage complaints.

Barry Hobbins, the accessible advocate, says the allegation of a adviser assassin by his appointment affirm that the announcement arrangement still had bugs as of aftermost August that produced inaccurate bills.

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“Did we acquisition a argent bullet?” Hobbins said. “No, but we begin abundant issues to abutment our recommendations. Barter acquire been afflicted by SmartCare’s shortcomings.”

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CMP’s position, additionally absolute in closing briefs, paints a absolutely altered picture.

It acknowledges some bugs in the rollout of the new system, but not in the performance. It contends that SmartCare’s metering and announcement systems acquire formed appropriately back activity alive in backward 2017, and that barter acquire been and abide to be billed accurately for the ability they use.

That summary, however, contains an credible contradiction. At the aforementioned time, the aggregation acknowledges that SmartCare did acquire assorted bill errors and presentation issues, which it says acquire been corrected. But with bound exceptions, CMP says, none of this led to overcharging customers.

The distinction, according to Catharine Hartnett, CMP’s spokeswoman, is that the announcement errors didn’t appulse how abundant a chump bare to pay and weren’t accompanying to how abundant ability the chump used. In sum, she noted, the 107,000 accurate bill errors afflicted almost few of its 600,000 barter – the better absurdity complex an incorrect absorption amount activated to a backward payment.

CMP additionally rebuts allegation by consultants assassin by the PUC and the accessible advocate, as able-bodied as an assay by the Maine Sunday Telegram, that the aggregation bootless to abundantly assay SmartCare afore ablution it. The aggregation additionally discounted affirmation presented in the case that a abstruse aberration in some meters had a cogent appulse on chump bills.


These adverse abstracts will claiming the bureau to absolutely acknowledgment key questions aboriginal aloft in March 2018, back the bureau accomplished a assay afore affective on to a abounding assay at the alpha of 2019. Those questions include:

• Are CMP’s meters accurately annual chump usage?

• Are CMP’s acute meters accurately communicating with the new announcement system?

• Are CMP’s bills accurately absorption usage?

• Are CMP’s bills accurately artful the absolute bill?

The bureau and its agents acquire spent a year gluttonous these answers. They’ve advised actually millions of abstracts credibility in about 200 abstracted filings. They’ve catholic about the annual breadth to accept to barter unload at accessible hearings and had the adventitious to catechism annual assembly and experts at abstruse hearings that abject on for days.

The capacity of how the commissioners appear bottomward on the announcement issues will additionally acquire added implications.

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A accumulation of barter who are gluttonous to sue CMP and its ancestor company, Avangrid, acquire been told by a adjudicator to delay for the aftereffect at the PUC.

And on a abstracted track, the PUC afresh assassin a adviser to assay the costs, allowances and impacts of a aldermanic angle to actualize a accessible ability authority, which would do abroad with investor-owned CMP and Emera Maine. That address is due in February. How the accessible ability movement is beheld by the abounding Legislature and Gov. Janet Mills may articulation in allotment on whether barter feel a faculty of cease afterwards the PUC process.

The PUC is beneath no obligation to save CMP from itself, said Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, the accessible ability bill’s prime sponsor. He co-chairs the aldermanic board that handles activity affairs that will assay the consultant’s report.

Berry said it will be difficult for the PUC to abundantly atone some barter for the accent and all-overs of angry for months over accustomed bills or threats of accepting their ability disconnected.

“My better concern,” he said, “is the abounding admeasurement of accident to alone lives won’t be absolutely understood, accustomed or addressed.”


CMP has proposed a $6 actor advantage fund, amid added measures, to admonition boldness advancing disputes alfresco the courts. The PUC has taken no activity on this proposal, and attorneys apery audience gluttonous class-action cachet in cloister acquire absolved it as a tactic to abstain advantageous what they appraisal to be $140 actor in damages.

Meanwhile, a abstracted accumulation of barter is allurement the PUC to formally investigate CMP’s ascendancy to accomplish in Maine. CMP has asked the PUC to abolish the motion; the bureau has yet to respond.

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As the PUC’s accommodation looms, CMP is aggravating to accent that whatever problems it has had are abundantly in the past. Hartnett acclaimed the aggregation has assassin two dozen added chump annual reps, added training, appointed a new carnality admiral of chump annual and set up an agent aggregation to clue admonition technology changes.

She additionally acclaimed that an assay done by the PUC agents in September begin that high usage, not beat problems or new announcement software, was amenable for bags of barter accepting aerial electricity bills in the winter of 2017-18.

Hartnett said the cessation affirms an beforehand assay done by Liberty Consulting Group, an absolute accountant assassin by the PUC, that begin awfully aerial bills accustomed by CMP barter that winter were acquired by added ability use because of frigid weather, as able-bodied as a accumulation amount increase. CMP accustomed that added than 97,000 barter accustomed bills that were at atomic 50 percent college than a agnate aeon a year earlier.

Most recently, CMP launched a branding and abode action alleged Ability On, an accomplishment to advance chump annual and achieve trust.

But for some customers, aerial bills aren’t aloof a abroad memory. Complaints were actuality logged into aftermost ages at the PUC. Each bearings is different and accountable to dispute, but they abide to actualize the faculty of abiding problems with CMP’s announcement system.

Complicating the amount is that some customers, represented by an online accumulation angry aerial bills, CMP Ratepayers Unite, are claiming that they were told by the aggregation or the PUC not to pay for the time being. That would anon belie the PUC’s accessible admonition to acquaintance CMP and pay at atomic an acknowledged allocation of the bill, based on usage.

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Some barter acquire run up amazing debts. A spreadsheet from CMP Ratepayers Unite contains a comment from a chump who is said to owe about $10,000.

“Disputed bill aboriginal on back bill doubled; CMP chump annual said not to pay until assay ended. Accustomed break apprehension for $9,995. Working abounding time; 8 months abundant with 4th adolescent – actual stressed.”


Businesses additionally abide to be bent up in the controversy. A Portland beer maker, Rising Tide Brewing Co., is blaming a “systemic announcement error” for a aegis drop altercation with CMP.

“CMP additionally did not accede that they acquire a systemic announcement blemish that acquired their chump annual assembly to assert – alike back challenged – that we had backward payments,” co-owners Nathan and Heather Sanborn wrote to the PUC on Nov. 27. “As a result, this systemic announcement blemish acceptable still exists and will annual added barter to be told they acquire backward payments back they do not.”

Heather Sanborn is a accompaniment agent from Portland, who ahead served on the Legislature’s activity committee.

The Rising Tide complaint was amid several academic alleged case studies about appear by the aggregation mid-December.

As the PUC’s accommodation nears, the parties in the case and their rebuttals acquire mostly attenuated into a war of words that echo antecedent credibility and abolish adverse evidence.

CMP assured its comments by labeling the accessible advocate’s recommendations “misguided, baseless and potentially unlawful,” abacus that they could attenuate chump aplomb and the PUC’s oversight.

But Hobbins and his appointment acquire acclimated their closing arguments to highlight what they say are new announcement disputes, 24 months afterwards SmartCare went live. They say that as old software defects are anchored by CMP, new ones surface.

“The bold of  ‘whack-a-mole’ continues,” the Accessible Advocate’s Appointment wrote.

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