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Liberty Consulting Report Released Related to Forensic Audit of CMP's Metering and Billing Systems

December 20, 2018

Hallowell, Maine. Today, the Maine Public Utilities Commission ("Commission") released an independent audit report on CMP's metering and billing systems conducted by Liberty Consulting Group (Liberty). The audit was undertaken as a result of a large number of complaints regarding high bills and billing errors reported by CMP customers starting in late 2017.

The audit included an evaluation of the accuracy of CMP's metering and billing systems, as well as CMP's handling of customer inquiries and complaints. Specifically, Liberty examined the accuracy of CMP's meters, whether the billing system produced timely and accurate bills, if the new billing system was implemented effectively, and if CMP has been responsive and effective in addressing customer complaints and inquiries. Below, are the major conclusions according to the Liberty analysis. The entire report and Executive Summary can be found with this press release.

The finding and conclusions of Liberty's independent analysis and report will be subject to further review and process at the Commission. The Commission will determine the next procedural steps when it considers the matter at its next public deliberations session to be held on Tuesday January 8, 2019.

Summary findings and conclusions according to the Liberty Report

Meter Accuracy: "CMP's meters produce accurate measurements of customer usage. Its meter-related databases and communications systems accurately, completely, and timely collect and store usage, and transmit it accurately, completely, and timely to the billing systems of CMP's customer information system, SmartCare. The meters, systems, and databases have done so since November 1, 2017. We also found instances of very uncommon circumstances that cause one of CMP's AMI meter types to register usage inaccurately. Those anomalies may have produced occasions of inaccurate registration numbering in the low thousands since installation of those meters starting in 2010. Not only uncommon, the instances produced error too small to be material overall, but could have had more material consequence for much smaller numbers of customers."

Billing System Function: "The introduction of SmartCare at the end of October 2017 introduced errors and significant delay into the billing process. Billing error rates for delivery and for fairly standard supply arrangements proved minimal in number and in dollar value. We have not been able to match billing calculations for several thousand other supply arrangements, but are confident that the reason for the vast majority of the remaining mismatches is our inability to account fully for the unique billing factors involved. In any event, the total dollar value of these mismatches is also minimal. Management should, however, rationalize the remaining calculation differences. The overall magnitude of those differences, however, is too small to be considered a contributor to high bills last winter."

High Bill Analysis: "Our analysis showed usage at levels consistent with the expectations that the cold weather of last winter would suggest. Moreover, supplier rates then increased substantially, adding to the effects of higher than typical usage. Weather and rate changes, not meter or AMI system error, caused high usage registration and rates across the system as a whole. Historical data - - daily, monthly, yearly, and across 2013-2017 - - indicates that recorded system-usage from November 2017 through April 2018 matched expected usage given the weather conditions."

Billing System Implementation: "Significant gaps in SmartCare testing and training and in the transition to it produced in its initial phase of operation unnecessarily large numbers of errors requiring lengthy manual correction before bill issuance. A shortage of personnel contributed to the inability to eliminate errors before go-live. Continuing shortages of experienced personnel after go-live unduly delayed fixes to the errors, caused significant customer difficulty in reaching CMP representatives and in getting answers to questions and concerns, and meant overly long delays in resolving billing problems. Customer performance metrics fell below norms and remained so for some time, some of them still today. The extent and degree of performance degradation contributed strongly to a level of customer frustration, doubt, and skepticism already high due to uncharacteristically large bills last winter...we consider management responsible for generating a high level of customer concern, produced by less than adequate SmartCare development and transition to operations processes and by a continuing shortage of sufficient numbers of customer service personnel after SmartCare go-live."

Customer Communications: "CMP experienced a 22 percent increase in times to handle calls following SmartCare go-live and high rates of calls abandoned by customers before response by the company. CMP has also failed to meet consistently its target level of service (answering 80 percent of customer calls within 45 seconds, a target consistent with industry experience) as it continued in the second and third quarters of 2018 to struggle to address customer billing issues. A lack of sufficient staffing has materially contributed to long answer and call handling times. A lack of sufficient experience and supervision have impaired the ability to resolve specific customer inquiries and complaints and to address systemic issues underlying them."

Background: On March 1, 2018, the Commission issued and Order of Investigation of Central Maine Power Company Metering and Billing and Customer Communications Issues in Docket 2018-00052. The Commission issued an RFP seeking proposals for a consultant to provide expert analysis in conducting a forensic audit related to Central Maine Power Company's metering, billing and related systems and, ultimately selected Liberty Consulting Group to conduct the audit. The purpose of the audit was to determine whether these systems are: (1) producing accurate measurements of customer usage (metering); (2) accurately transmitting these customer usage measurements to CMP's meter data management and billing systems; and (3) producing bills that reflect correct customer usage levels and charges.

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The Maine Public Utilities Commission regulates electric, telephone, water and gas utilities to ensure that Maine citizens have access to safe and reliable utility service at rates that are just and reasonable for all ratepayers. Commission programs include Maine Enhanced 911 Service, and Dig Safe.

Download the file (CMP Forensic Audit Final Report Executive Summary)

Download the file (CMP Forensic Audit Final Report)


Contact: Harry Lanphear, 287-3831