The PSC was unconvinced by the companies' claim that the matter has been resolved and should be dismissed. The Commission believes the data Staff and FirstEnergy filed indicate the need for further investigation and do not justify dismissing this matter as resolved and therefore FirstEnergy's request to dismiss is denied.
The Commission made the following FINDINGS OF FACT:
1. The Commission opened a general investigation into the meter reading, billing and customer service practices of FirstEnergy. June 7, 2013 Commission Order.
2. FirstEnergy reported that 5.3 percent of its customers received two consecutive estimated bills and a further 2.2 percent received three consecutive estimated bills in the May 2013 billing cycle. July 1, 2013 FirstEnergy Filing at 8.
3. Approximately 44 percent of FirstEnergy customers in West Virginia were unable to resolve a billing problem in their first customer service call in 2013. Id. at 12.
4. Staff reported that it has received an increasing number of informal complaints regarding FirstEnergy billing practices. July 15, 2013 Staff Reply.
The Commission was unconvinced by FirstEnergy's desperate posturing attempting to show that everything is hunky dory, and tells the company who's boss:
"The Commission also takes this opportunity to emphasize that the purpose of this proceeding is to ensure that FirstEnergy takes the steps necessary to provide reliable service and accurate billing. The Commission will not prematurely rush this matter or
close the proceeding until FirstEnergy demonstrates that its billing accurately reflects customer usage on a consistent basis and has implemented responsive service practices."
The Commission intends to stop FirstEnergy's reign of terror, therefore FirstEnergy must now be monitored like a wayward teenager:
"In this case, the Commission believes that it should immediately begin collecting data to allow it to monitor certain aspects of FirstEnergy customer service. This data will assist the Commission and the parties in this proceeding by generating a statistical benchmark for determining improvement or decline in service quality and providing empirical data that demonstrates whether the problems have been resolved as contended by FirstEnergy."
Beginning August 15, 2013, and continuing for one year, the required monthly submissions should include the following information:
1. Current customer contact center metrics collected by FirstEnergy.
2. The number and percentage of customers with two or more consecutive estimated bills rendered.
3. The current number of budgeted meter reader positions and the current number of meter readers employed.
4. The current status of the project to re-number meters and adjust meter routes.
5. The steps taken to adjust or improve the current enhanced estimation algorithm.
6. The number and percentage of meter rereads.
7. The number of complaints handled by the customer contact center with a breakdown by complaint type.
8. The number and percentage of customer complaints resolved on the first call to the FirstEnergy call center.
9. The number of customers placed on a deferred payment plan and note the percentage of those with two or more consecutive estimated bills.
The Commission also ordered:
"Further, Staff must review the reports FirstEnergy will file and promptly submit an analysis of the new data after three and six months of those filings. The Commission, however, expects Staff to continue to investigate this matter beyond the analysis prescribed by this Order and recommend further steps as needed.
The Commission will monitor the monthly filings and expects FirstEnergy to demonstrate improvement consistent with its representations in the July 1, 2013 filing that the underlying problems are resolved. The Commission will determine the need for further action after approximately six months of statistical filings and will issue a subsequent Order that may either call this matter for an evidentiary hearing or prescribe an appropriate alternative. The Commission will also hold public comment hearings in the FirstEnergy service areas after it receives and reviews the first two monthly reports."
The Commission reasserts its authority and hopefully strikes a little fear in FirstEnergy's flippant little corporate heart by reciting possible future outcomes:
"The Commission cannot at this time conclusively determine what future action might be necessary if
current trends continue, possible future interventions may include (i) requiring more costly monthly meter reading instead of bimonthly readings, (ii) fixing minimum meter reading staff levels and practices, (iii) creating financial rate penalties tied to statistical performance or (iv) requiring FirstEnergy to retain a consultant to revise its integration process."
The Commission has even issued a press release.
It's time to stop playing around now, FirstEnergy, quit denying there is a problem, and get down to the serious business of making amends with your customers.