The Lead

Pa. PUC to evaluate settlement with PPL over electric billing issues that affected thousands of customers

By: - November 22, 2023 2:42 pm

Electric utilities spend billions of dollars across the country on smaller lines and replacement lines that fall below the requirement for state or federal review and then pass those charges on to customers. (Photo by Robert Zullo/States Newsroom)

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission or PUC announced on Wednesday that it will evaluate and consider a proposed multi-million dollar settlement for widespread consumer billing issues by PPL Electric Utilities Corporation (PPL). 

Consumer reports of billing issues in late January sparked an investigation by the PUC, which found that customer meter data was not transferred from the utility’s meter data management software to its customer service system. Additionally, PUC found that “human error caused additional incorrect bills to be issued, while some customers received no bills, and issues with bill estimation resulted in wildly inaccurate bills.”

PUC launches investigation into PPL Electric over ‘unusually high bills’

PUC said in a statement on Wednesday that more than 82,000 estimated bills were impacted by missing or inaccurate supply charges, which resulted in PPL canceling the initial estimated bills and rebilling accounts to correct errors. This, the commission said, “generated consumer confusion and created a complicated tangle of bills that took months to unravel.”

PUC analysis of estimated bills issued by PPL revealed that “67.31% (261,104 customers) of the bills had an estimate differing from the customers’ actual usage of 10% or greater. Of these bills, one-third indicated an estimate that varied from the actual usage by more than 25%.” The commission reported that nearly 48,000 customer bills were based on an estimate differing from actual usage by more than 50%.

The investigation also found that customers who attempted to contact PPL about the billing issues were faced with “extremely long wait times or could not reach the utility.”  

According to PUC, “Call center data from the period between January and April 2023 showed that 41% of calls to PPL were abandoned without customers being able to reach a representative.”

The proposed settlement, which includes payment of a $1 million civil penalty and PPL’s agreement to absorb more than $16 million in related costs, is a joint effort between PUC’s independent Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement and PPL, and has been submitted for review and consideration by the PUC Commissioners, who will make a final determination on the proposal. 

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Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller was the associate editor at the Capital-Star.