State regulators allege violations against Puget Sound Energy
Company failed to follow-up with improperly handled customers’ accounts
OLYMPIA, Wash. – State regulators today issued a complaint against Puget Sound Energy (PSE) alleging violations of an order directing the utility to correctly apply “refusal of service” requirements. Those rules are designed to protect consumers who are unable to pay their energy bills, need to be reconnected and need to set up payment arrangements on the prior balance without a further threat of disconnection.
The Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) issued a $104,300 penalty against PSE in October 2010 for providing customers, including many low-income customers, with inaccurate or misleading information regarding how much they must pay to reconnect their electric or natural gas service and improperly handling accounts of customers disconnected for nonpayment. The company also improperly applied energy assistance pledge funds made to low-income customers’ accounts that were intended to help consumers keep the lights and heat on during the winter months.
The UTC ordered PSE to correct its mishandling of 26 customer accounts. The 26 accounts were part of a random sampling of hundreds of disconnected customer accounts.
A subsequent UTC staff investigation found the company had failed to correct its mishandling of those customer accounts.
UTC staff allege up to 515 violations of the 2010 order. If proven at hearing, the commission could assess PSE as much as $1,000 for each violation. The company is not allowed to pass penalty costs to customers through rates.
The UTC will schedule the complaint for a hearing. The company has 20 calendar days to file an answer.
Bellevue-based PSE serves more than 1 million electric customers and about 750,000 natural gas customers, primarily in the Puget Sound region of Western Washington.
The UTC is the three-member state agency in charge of regulating the private, investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in Washington. It is the commission’s responsibility to ensure regulated companies provide safe and reliable service to customers at reasonable rates, while allowing them the opportunity to earn a fair profit.