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CMP customers shocked by big balances after not getting bills for months

Electrician Mike Platt provided copies of his bills for the I-Team to review

STATEWIDE (WGME) -- Six months after reporting done by the CBS 13 I-Team triggered a state investigation into Central Maine Power, customers continue to report issues with the state's largest power company.

Many of the customer complaints have had a similar theme--high bills and unexplained usage.

But now some customers say they're not getting any bill.

Master electrician Mike Platt said he can't explain his most recent CMP bills, especially the one from February.

"They told me in one month we used $1,400 worth of electricity," Platt said.

He said he didn't even know about it for months.

"So you saw I have a January (bill) and I have nothing until May," Platt said.

That's when he got five different bills, with five different balances all at once.

The biggest balance, nearly $3,000.

"Which I absolutely don't understand," Platt said.

The I-Team reached out to CMP to see why Platt and some other customers aren't getting bills.

"Our new billing system has additional layers of validation which ensures that we maximize the accuracy of bills going out to customers. The system will create an 'exception' and hold a bill back if something falls outside certain parameters. Once verified accurate, the bill goes out," spokesperson Gail Rice said.

She said that's likely what happened in Platt's case, but she said she couldn't comment any further on his account.

"People are very honest; they want to pay their bills," said public advocate Barry Hobbins.

Hobbins said he's not surprised by Platt's situation because he's heard the same thing from other customers.

"If you don't get a bill for four months, then you're put in a situation that some of our seniors, those on fixed incomes, lower income will have a hard time paying those bills when they finally get one," Hobbins said.

Rice said the company will work with customers to set up payment plans.

Platt is already on one, but he refuses to pay his now-nearly $3,500 balance because he doesn't think it's right.

"A home does not consume 7,000 kilowatt hours in one month. It just doesn't. It's impossible," Platt said.

State regulators have hired consultants to investigate the accuracy of CMP's meters and new billing system.

"I honestly think it's in the metering," he said.

Internal e-mails between CMP employees reveal concerns over meter-related issues.

They talk about the internal clock in certain meters speeding up unexpectedly.

The I-Team discovered the meter on Platt's home is the same model identified in the e-mails with the so-called "fast clock" issue.

"We're currently under an investigation with our Public Utility Commission due to high bill complaints...the erroneous clock issue is something that could contribute to the problems," a meter engineer wrote.

A month later, an attorney for the company told the PUC "there's no correlation between identified meters experiencing the problem and customer accounts with high usage complaints."

Just this week, the company reiterated it hasn't seen any issues relating to meter inaccuracy but continues to look for them.

The PUC and its auditors are looking for issues too.

"We continue to move along, looking at everything," said Mark Vannoy, PUC chairman.

Until then, Platt is looking at equipment to verify the accuracy of his usage.

An update on the status of the state investigation is expected within the next two weeks, but we're told the whole investigation into metering, billing, and customer service issues won't be finished until the fall.

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