State fines PSE for mishandling accounts

October 19, 2010

By Staff

State regulators fined Puget Sound Energy $104,300 last week for improperly handling accounts of customers — including many low-income customers — disconnected for nonpayment.

The state Utilities and Transportation Commission assessed the penalty for 1,043 violations of state consumer protection rules — including 965 related to the disconnected accounts.

Commission staffers said Bellevue-based PSE provided inaccurate or misleading information to customers about how much they must pay in order to reconnect electric or natural gas services.

The commission also penalized PSE for improperly applying energy assistance pledge funds made to low-income customers’ accounts. The pledges had been intended to help consumers keep lights and heat on during the winter.

Commission staffers cited PSE for applying pledge funds to a prior balance, causing additional disconnection threats for customers.

The commission launched the investigation after a routine audit of consumer complaints. The investigation discovered PSE continued to misapply state refusal-of-service rules, despite instructions from regulators.

PSE must either pay the entire penalty, request a hearing to challenge the violations or request that the penalty to be reduced.

PSE serves more than 1 million electric customers and about 750,000 natural gas customers, including Issaquah residents.

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