Florida utility Duke Energy has avoided a clash with the state regulator by promising compensation for customers adversely affected by changes to meter reading routes and billing cycles.

Ahead of an appearance in front of the Public Services Commission (PSC) on September 4, Duke Energy announced yesterday it would credit customers who had received higher bills because a longer billing period had pushed them into a higher tariff bracket.

Billing problem fixed

Although the commission said yesterday that it was still evaluating whether it needed to meet with Duke Energy, PSC chairman Art Graham suggested that the energy company had done enough to resolve the situation.

Mr Graham said: “The intended purpose of the (meter reading) project is well within the good business practices we expect from utilities, but the unintended consequences were not.

“The negative billing effects on some customers had to be fixed, and with the action announced today, Duke Energy Florida has stepped up and fixed it.

He added: “The Public Service Commission requires utilities to be responsive to the issues we raise on behalf of the public. Duke has moved to answer the concerns very quickly, as we expected them to do.”

New meter routes

Duke Energy changing meter reading cyclesDuke Energy came under fire after introducing revised meter reading routes to cut down on duplicated journeys.

The changes meant the meters of 267,000 customers were read up to 12 days later than previously, resulting in a larger billing cycle and higher charges.

This is because Duke bills customers US$11.34 for every 100 kilowatt hours of usage up to 1,000 kilowatt hours. But above that, it charges US$13.70 for every 100 kilowatt hours. [Read – Duke Energy under fire from ‘profiting’ from changes to meter reading]

Although Duke was within PSC regulations, a backlash from media, consumers, rate payers and state lawmakers prompted a reversal of the charges.

Alex Glenn, state president of Duke Energy Florida, said: “We apologise for any hardships and confusion we have caused our customers, and we will make this right.

“We will continue to work with impacted customers until all credits have been issued. We are also taking steps to ensure that this does not happen again.”

Customer communication

Duke has added extra staff to its call centre to respond to customer queries over the billing issue.