- PECO Energy has agreed to pay a $150,000 civil penalty and contribute about $400,000 to a bill payment assistance fund in order to resolve issues related to the utility’s improper disconnection of nearly 50,000 customers in 2018 and 2019.
- The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Thursday voted to seek comment on the proposed settlement. Customer advocates opposed a 2021 settlement proposal for being too lenient, and say they are still reviewing the new proposal, which was filed in January.
- The disconnections resulted from two separate call center computer errors that improperly tallied automated calls warning customers of an impending disconnection. The revised settlement includes reconnection refunds totaling approximately $1.2 million, which were distributed to impacted customers in 2021, PECO said in a statement.
PECO’s computer software problems began in June of 2018 when a third-party vendor made changes to the utility’s call center automated dialer platform.
The utility discovered the first error in August 2018. According to PUC documents, the dialer platform was incorrectly recording some attempts to contact customers about impending shutoffs as successful when they were not, meaning the utility had not completed customer contact requirements prior to suspending service. This resulted in service terminations for 1,552 premises.
A second error, involving confusion between a customer’s current bill due date and a service termination date, was discovered in September 2019 and resulted in service termination for 47,176 premises.
“When we learned about the issue this vendor experienced in completing the required notifications to our customers, we immediately reported it to the [PUC] and took swift action to resolve it, including promptly contracting with a new vendor to handle these notifications,” PECO said in an emailed statement.
PECO reached an initial settlement with the PUC’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement, or BI&E, in February 2021, including a proposed $50,000 civil penalty. Both the Tenant Union Representative Network and the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project opposed the settlement, arguing the penalty was too low.
However, the initial settlement was ultimately withdrawn when PECO discovered it had not included reconnection fees for impacted customers.
“With that, we filed a joint petition with BI&E to revise the settlement agreement to make those customers whole,” PECO said in a statement.
Counsel for TURN and PULP each said it was too soon to comment on the revised proposed settlement.
Along with a $150,000 civil penalty, the settlement calls for PECO to contribute almost $400,000 to its Matching Energy Assistance Fund, which assists low- and moderate-income families with bill payments.