For Immediate Release - December 13, 2012

AG Coakley File Recommendations for Improving Gas and Electric Company Service Quality Standards

AG Argues DPU Standards Must be Improved to Ensure Utility Customers Get Service They Are Paying For

BOSTON – After reviewing the standards used to measure the service quality of gas and electric companies due to massive outages that left thousands without power across the state in 2011, Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office detailed the findings in a report filed today with the Department of Public Utilities (DPU).

Recommendations for Strengthening the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities’ Service Quality Standards pdf format of Service Quality Standards Recommendations for DPU
file size 1MB offers a set of alternative and improved methods for the DPU to measure service quality. The goal of the report is to improve the annual performance and system maintenance of utility companies to prevent power outages and improve service.

“At a time when we have seen numerous outages, we need to ensure that utilities are doing all they can to maintain proper service for customers,” AG Coakley said.  “Utilities routinely receive rate increases to improve their infrastructure and service quality, and it’s our job to ensure that customers are getting the benefits they’re paying for.”

In 2001, the DPU established the current service quality guidelines. Each year, utility companies file a report disclosing their performance under three categories: safety and reliability, service and billing, and customer satisfaction. Utilities have also requested and received incentive payments for meeting those standards.

This summer, the AG’s Office commenced the review of service quality standards after being concerned for rising ratepayer costs and capital expenditures, along with inadequate responses to the October 2011 snowstorm and Tropical Storm Irene. 

The key recommendations in the report that the DPU should adopt, include:

  • The elimination of cross-category “offsets” or ratings for good service that can be used to misrepresent underperformance in other areas.
  • Increasing service benchmarks by a set percentage annually to prevent system deterioration and promote ratepayers’ benefits from company investments.
  • Adopting new penalties that measure the percentage of customers experiencing long or multiple interruptions. 
  • Changing customer satisfaction surveys to a penalty-eligible metric for companies.
  • Establishing a number of new reporting metrics to increase the level of transparency regarding service quality.

On Dec.11, 2012, the DPU opened its own investigation into improving service quality, and will take AG Coakley’s report and recommendations into consideration. 

The AG’s Office of Ratepayer Advocacy is by statute the utility ratepayer advocate for Massachusetts and is authorized to intervene in or institute administrative and judicial proceedings on behalf of consumers in connection with any matter involving the rates, charges, prices or tariffs of any gas or electric company doing business in the Commonwealth.

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