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AG Nessel Urges Public Service Commission to Make Outage Credits Automatic, Equitable Based on Length of Outage

LANSING – Days after power outages left hundreds of thousands of Michiganders in the dark, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel today sent a letter urging the Michigan Public Service Commission to require utility companies with smart meters to automatically credit consumers’ bills for prolonged power outages. Nessel also recommended the Commission require credits to reflect the length of the outage.

“There is no reason a utility customer with a smart meter should have to endure an outage and then take it upon themselves to apply for a credit from the utility company,” said Nessel.  “The companies know when and where each outage occurred, and they know the length of the outage. Utility companies can and should automatically credit every customer’s account rather than forcing customers to apply for the credit.  That’s just one more hassle for someone who has already been seriously inconvenienced.”

Michigan utility customers are currently eligible for a $25 outage credit under three scenarios: (1) failure to restore electric service to a customer within 16 hours after an interruption that occurred during normal conditions; (2) failure to restore electric service to a customer within 120 hours (five days) after an interruption that occurred during catastrophic conditions; and (3) repetitive interruptions of the same circuit more than seven times in a 12-month period. In all three scenarios, the burden is on the consumer to report the outage and request the credit.

In her letter, Nessel noted that electric service interruption rules were written years before the implementation of smart meters and that with this new technology, credits should be granted automatically.

“Michigan utility customers spent millions in increased electric rates so utility companies could upgrade to smart meters,” Nessel said. “This new technology tells utility companies exactly when their customers lost power and when it was restored. These companies have all the information they need to automatically process outage credits. The burden should be on the company, not the customer.”

In addition to her request to make credits automatically available to customers left in the dark by their utility companies, Nessel also urged the Commission to consider increased penalties that adequately reflect the costs borne by customers and graduated fees for the length of the outage.

“A $25 credit is fine for a customer who has been without power for 16 hours, but the outage credit is exactly the same amount – $25 – for someone who has been without power for five days – and there is nothing in between for the person who was without power for two or three or four days,” said Nessel.  “That’s simply not fair and I am counting on the Public Service Commission to address this inequity.”

A copy of the letter can be read here.