Legislation put forth to hold utility shareholders responsible for investigation costs

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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - The Maine Public Utilities Commission has undertaken an audit of Central Maine Power's metering and billing system following customer complaints of unusually high bills.

Legislation has been put forth to allow the PUC to hold a utility's shareholders responsible for the cost of an investigation.

Currently under Maine law, customers are automatically charged for the cost of an audit - even if the investigation finds the utility is at fault.

This measure aims to shift the burden of paying for the audit from ratepayers to utility shareholders.

It would also allow the PUC to establish random independent audits of an electric utility's entire billing system, including meters.

"If you go to the gas station and you pump a gallon of gas, you know you're getting a gallon of gas because somebody's been there to check that meter and you can see their seal right on it, and you know that it's legitimate. But when you pay for a kilowatt hour of electricity, the only person who's checked that meter is CMP and it's all on the honor system. I believe they're doing a good job of checking the meters, but I think that a third party is really an important step," said Rep. Tina Riley, (D) the bill's sponsor.

The measure now faces votes in the House and Senate.