State regulators fine Puget Sound Energy $250,000

November 12, 2012

By Staff

NEW — 6 p.m. Nov. 12, 2012

State regulators fined Puget Sound Energy $250,000 for violating a 2010 order to require the Bellevue-based utility to review and correct customer accounts, officials announced Nov. 9.

The state Utilities and Transportation Commission approved a multiparty settlement on a complaint based on violations stemming from the 2010 order. Officials said PSE violated the order 515 times.

The utility is not allowed to pass the penalty costs to customers through rate changes.

Regulators originally penalized the company $104,300 in October 2010 for improperly handling accounts of customers, including many low-income customers disconnected for nonpayment.

In addition to the penalty, regulators ordered the company to make corrections to 26 customer accounts identified by Utilities and Transportation Commission staffers.

In the 2010 order, regulators also penalized PSE for improperly applying energy assistance pledge funds made to low-income customers’ accounts. Pledge money is meant to help customers keep lights and heat on during winter months.

Commission staffers cited PSE for improperly applying pledge funds to a prior balance, leading to threats of disconnection for customers.

PSE has now provided refunds and credits to the mishandled customer accounts, and changed billing practices to ensure customer payment is applied correctly. The company also agreed to make a $75,000 contribution to its low-income assistance program.

The parties to the settlement include commission staffers, PSE, The Energy Project — a nonprofit group representing low-income people — and the state Attorney General’s Office.

PSE serves more than 1 million electric customers and about 785,000 natural gas customers in Western Washington, including Issaquah.

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