Tuesday, 10 December 2013

PG&E reverses "SmartMeter" opt-out charge after complaint to CPUC

More than a year ago, I applied to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for rehearing of the CPUC's decision, over my objections, to approve surcharges for customers of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. who don't allow PG&E to install transceivers and antennae for PG&E's wireless mesh data network, without payment to the property owner, on or in their homes -- regardless of whether PG&E has acquired any siting rights for that equipment, or whether the utility customer (rather than the owner of the property) controls those siting rights and is entitled to grant an easement for them to PG&E.

My petition for rehearing remains pending with the CPUC, with no visible indication that it is even being considered. There's no statutory deadline for the CPUC to act on my petition.

I heard nothing (other than normal bills) from PG&E for almost a year after filing my petition for rehearing with the CPUC. But in October of 2013, I got a bill from PG&E that suddenly listed me as "enrolled" in the "SmartMeter Opt-OUT program", and assessed a $75 initial opt-out fee.

I have never opted in to such a program, but neither have I opted out. The (analog) gas and electric meters for the house where I live are located inside the building, as is typical of San Francisco row houses. So far as I know, PG&E has never tried to break in to the house to install a "SmartMeter".

I was able to get this charge reversed by complaining to the CPUC. Here's how:

Being a consumer advocate, I actually read my bills before I pay them. I noticed the erroneous charge, and called PG&E to dispute it. The people I talked to on the phone at PG&E admitted they had no record that I had ever "indicated that did not want a SmartMeter at my location" (the language in their tariff), but they refused to remove the erroneous "opt-out" charge from my bill. I declined to discuss whether I wanted a SmartMeter, and firmly but politely insisted on confining the discussion solely to whether the disputed line item on the bill had or had not been imposed in accordance with PG&E's tariff.

Next, I complained to the CPUC, using its billing dispute form and enclosing a check for the disputed amount, payable to the CPUC, for it to hold in escrow while investigating.

The CPUC returned my check, uncashed, with a form letter suggesting (wrongly) that the CPUC has no jurisdiction over billing disputes if the disputed charge is the SmartMeter "opt-out" fee.

When I got this letter from the CPUC, I called the CPUC. and explained to the person who had sent me the form letter that I was not, through this complaint, disputing the validity of PG&E's tariff or the SmartMeter opt-out fee in general. (I am disputing that, but through my application for rehearing, which is a separate CPUC proceeding.) This compliant to the CPUC was simply and solely a billing dispute regarding a charge which was not, under PG&E's tariff, applicable to my account.

Once I got my complaint shifted in the minds of the CPUC employee handling the case from the "SmarftMeter dispute" pigeonhole to the "billing dispute" pigeonhole, she told me she would check again with PG&E. Shortly afterward, she called back to say that PG&E had agreed to reverse the disputed charge.

However, my next PG&E bill still included the (now "past due") initial $75 opt-out charge, as well as an additional $10 monthly opt-out fee. I called PG&E, and was told that I would see a credit for both these amounts on my next bill. I asked for written confirmation that the charged would be removed and not reinstated, which the the person on the phone agreed to provide.

Nothing came in the mail until after several follow-up phone calls, but eventually I got a letter from PG&E confirming that my account "was removed from the SmartMeter Opt-Out program. Also, the initial set up charge of $75 and the subsequent monthly fee of $10 was removed... The next bill cycle starting in December will not have any charges related to the SmartMeter Opt-out program."

I have now received my next PG&E bill, showing an $85 credit and no longer listing my account as enrolled in the "SmartMeter opt-out program".

Link | Posted by Edward on Tuesday, 10 December 2013, 20:44 ( 8:44 PM) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

It's now August 2014. Are you still getting the usual bill [no fees for Opt Out] on your PG&E bill?
[I got such a bill with Opt Out Fee of $75 + $10 for the month and paid it in July of this year, 2014]
Am confused as to PG&E's right to levy the charges, and would like to get credit if possible. Please advise. thanks. mary

Posted by: Mary, 6 August 2014, 01:41 ( 1:41 AM)

@Mary -- As of August 2014, I have not (yet) paid any opt-out fees, and have not been billed for them on my latest bill.

Twice PG&E has billed me an initial $75 opt-out fee. The first time, in 2013, the charge was removed from my bill after I complianed to the CPUC, as discussed in the blog entry above. The second time, in the spring of 2013, the charge was removed after I contacted PG&E, without my needing to escalate the dispute to the CPUC.

I know of one dispute over the opt-out fee that has gone further in the CPUC appeal process. Thomas Rainey's complant against PG&E is scheduled for an evidentiary hearing before a CPUC Administrative Law Judge at the CPUC courtroom, 505 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, at 11 a.m. on Friday, 8 August 2014. Documents in this case (CPUC proceeding C1404002) are here:

http://delaps1.cpuc.ca.gov/CPUCProceedingLookup/f?p=401:56:34232512833256::NO:RP,57,RIR:P5_PROCEEDING_SELECT:C1404002

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 6 August 2014, 03:24 ( 3:24 AM)

I understand you were present at Rainey's hearing last Friday. Can you tell us what you witnessed and if/how the case was resolved?

Thank you

Posted by: Ron, 13 August 2014, 11:15 (11:15 AM)

There's a report on the hearing here:

http://stopsmartmeters.org/2014/08/13/pge-customers-getting-fees-reversed-as-cpuc-endlessly-delays-smart-meter-opt-out-decision/

The CPUC Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) ordered PG&E to refund the initial $75 opt-out fee and the subsequent $10 monthly opt-out fees that it had charged Mr. Rainey. In exchange for PG&E's promise to do so, the ALJ dismissed Mr. Rainey's complaint, without writing a formal decision. So the CPUC records will show only that the complaint was dismissed, and not a record of the decision or the basis for it.

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 13 August 2014, 11:43 (11:43 AM)

Thanks Ed! I haven't run into you for a long time, so I was glad to see your name on this!
Your info may help me get the opt out bill removed. I got tinnitus for 6 months from our smart meter- I got an analog put in and I'm fine, luckily.

I hope you are well!

Posted by: Phebe Fletcher, 24 August 2014, 18:17 ( 6:17 PM)

Therefore, it always pay back that you simply hold very
personal data to individuals of one's contacts
real world Now then, there was a motivating piece recently in Kurzweil's "Accelerating Intelligence" on-line news concerning Apple
and also the way forward for the E-Text Book titled; "Apple to announce tools, platform to 'digitally destroy' textbook publishing," posted
on January seventeen, 2012 by Editor and also the article stated:

Posted by: kill, 10 February 2016, 14:54 ( 2:54 PM)

Therefore, it always pay back that you simply hold very
personal data to individuals of one's contacts
real world Now then, there was a motivating piece recently in Kurzweil's "Accelerating Intelligence" on-line news concerning Apple
and also the way forward for the E-Text Book titled; "Apple to announce tools, platform to 'digitally destroy' textbook publishing," posted
on January seventeen, 2012 by Editor and also the article stated:

Posted by: kill, 10 February 2016, 14:55 ( 2:55 PM)

So I pay the opt out fee, plus the 10 a month for 36 months, which I considered a rip off in the first place. Then a tenant asked permission to get on pge care package and when I was forced to evict the tenant, not only did I get massive damage from the tenant but I just found out, oh you get to re do the opt out fee and you get to start paying the 10 bucks for 36 moths again even though its the same number account and, although we had paid it off, so think I am getting double screwed. I complained but nothing has happened.

Posted by: ella seneres, 22 May 2017, 11:03 (11:03 AM)
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