At Central Maine Power, we believe every customer is entitled to an error-free monthly bill. We know that we have fallen short of that standard.

We are engaged at every level of our organization as we seek to regain the faith that customers have placed in us during most of CMP’s 120 years serving Maine communities and residents.

However, while we acknowledge that errors on bills have eroded customers’ trust in our billing system, it is important to remember that now three independent analyses – the first of which examined every customer account and meter, and 4 million bills – have failed to identify any systemic issue with our new SmartCare billing system that would have caused us to measure customers’ usage incorrectly or bill for erroneous amounts.

In its recent editorial on CMP’s billing system (“Our View: Bad weather doesn’t answer all CMP billing questions,” Sept. 8), the Press Herald Editorial Board observed, “The public advocate’s consultant cannot pinpoint a single cause of the problem.”  The report specifically states, “After eight weeks of intense review and analysis, we cannot isolate a defect, set of defects or root cause for the numerous complaints relating to high usage.” This conclusion is consistent not only with previous examinations, but also with our own investigations.

This is not to say there have not been coding errors. The Office of the Public Advocate’s recent review of 1,364 customer accounts found a variety of these programming errors, the majority of which we call “presentation errors,” or incorrectly displayed supporting information or graphics on the bill.

What the Public Advocate’s review did not find were “bottom-line” errors – incorrect measurements of usage or erroneous calculations of the amount billed to customers. In fact, the OPA review, the Maine Public Utilities Commission staff analysis and the Liberty Consulting Group’s intensive audit of all 640,000 CMP customer accounts found no evidence that the SmartCare system was providing faulty usage data or incorrect bottom-line charges.

With one exception, the billing errors covered in the OPA report were both identified and brought to the attention of the auditors – and the MPUC – by CMP as we worked with the OPA’s audit team to analyze the bills. These errors have already been fixed – or are in queue to be fixed – but most importantly, the bottom-line amount that each customer was billed was accurate.

CMP prints or electronically posts 30,000 bills each day and 8 million bills each year. Should every single one of these 8 million bills be error-free? Of course they should, and it is something CMP always strives to achieve. However, any massive billing system – even the legacy system that CMP’s new SmartCare system replaced – can be subject to unexpected errors from coding and programming. Every day our team seeks them out and, if any are found, fixes them.

So no, the errors that CMP brought to the auditors’ attention were not caused by bad weather – but as every outside review has now concluded, the metering and billing system is accurate. And to anyone who deigns, as the Press Herald Editorial Board did, to describe the Liberty Consulting Group report or the subsequent MPUC bench analysis as “CMP-friendly,” we would simply invite you to dig below the headline and review the candid analysis in each report. The bottom-line conclusions that the system works were embedded in frank conclusions – conclusions that CMP has heard and that have led to organizational improvements designed to offer a better standard of service to customers.

We continue to work every day to help customers better understand their bills and use available tools to manage energy use while we improve the reliability of the electric system infrastructure, and introduce the new technology needed to invite cleaner and more sustainable energy sources onto the grid for Maine.

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