Court filing accuses CMP of wrongfully threatening to disconnect customers

Newly-filed court documents accuse Central Maine Power of wrongfully disconnecting or threatening to disconnect customers.

PORTLAND (WGME) -- Newly-filed court documents accuse Central Maine Power of wrongfully disconnecting or threatening to disconnect customers.

It's the latest development in a class action lawsuit against CMP over high bills, and comes as the state is wrapping up its investigation into metering, billing and customer communications at the company.

CMP has asked a judge to throw out the lawsuit, but first, attorneys for the customers want the court to stop to any disconnection notices until the case is resolved.

Chantal Levesque spoke with CBS 13 back in August about the sudden spike in her CMP bills. Her husband is the class representative in the lawsuit.

"Neither my husband nor I bought their whole excuse on blaming it on something we were doing," Levesque said.

In an effort to protect ratepayers during the investigation, the Maine Public Utilities Commission told CMP it can't disconnect customers who've seen their bills increase by 25 percent or more compared to the same month last year, as long as they've disputed the charges and paid a portion.

According to the court documents filed this week, Levesque meets the criteria, but still got disconnection notices in April and August, violating the PUC's order.

Attorneys representing customers cite six other examples of wrongful disconnection or notices.

Court documents say a Franklin County woman hasn't gotten a bill since March, but did receive a disconnect notice in August telling her to pay $148. In an affidavit, she said she had called the company monthly requesting a bill, but was told they couldn't send one because they couldn't determine if it was correct. She wrote that CMP later told her the disconnection notice was an error.

According to court documents, another family was disconnected in February of 2018 during the Winter Disconnection Period, in violation of the rules.

Catharine Hartnett, a spokesperson for CMP, said the company doesn't comment on active litigation, but encourages any customers with concerns to call them.

Hartnett said the winter period, which took effect Thursday, means from now until April, utilities can't disconnect residential customers without approval from the PUC. If a customer doesn't pay, said Hartnett, they will pursue credit action up to the point of disconnection. Sometimes that involves a payment plan.

"Unfortunately, at this point, it's not surprising to hear that there continue to be billing notices going out that appear to be mistaken or unfounded," said Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, who chairs the legislature's committee on energy.

He said it's especially concerning since the weather turned cold and snow is on the way.

Berry said CMP should back off.

"They just need to get their own house in order before they start asking people to get theirs in order," said Berry. "Bottom line."

Attorneys for the customers expect to formally file their motion for a temporary restraining order next week.

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