Utility Commission Rejects $12.6M Proposal for Prepay Program that would “disconnect customers from service faster if they failed to pay”

By B.N. Frank

Question:  What could be worse than regular utility “smart” meters (electric, gas, and water)?

Answer:  Prepay “smart” meters!

Opposition to “smart” meters has been worldwide for over a decade.  Utility companies encourage or sometimes force consumers to accept these hazardous devices (see 1, 2, 3, 4) in order to remotely control and/or ration energy use (see 1, 2) as well as collect consumer usage data 24/7 to sell and/or share with 3rd parties including government and law enforcement agencies.  In the U.K., “smart” meter complaints and issues have increased significantly as ½ million of the poorest households are being forced to take prepay “smart” meters when they can’t afford to prepay (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8).  Thanks to the Michigan Public Service Commission, the state’s DTE customers dodged that bullet at least for now.

From Mlive:

Michigan shoots down DTE proposal to have some customers prepay bills

By Taylor DesOrmeau | tdesorme@mlive.com

DTE Electric Company’s proposal to allow customers to prepay their electric bills has been denied by the Michigan Public Service Commission – which Attorney General Dana Nessel is calling “a big win” for customers.

Nessel’s team intervened and fought against the $12.6 million proposal, arguing it would cut down on consumer protections. The voluntary plan would have allowed electric customers to join a program to pay their bill a month earlier – before using the energy instead of after.

The program would collect usage data in real time and allow those customers to track their costs right away.

But Nessel and the MPSC took issue with the specifics, saying it could penalize low-income customers since it would disconnect customers from service faster if they failed to pay.

“The structure and costs associated with this program were a bad deal for consumers, especially lower-income customers who might have found themselves forced into the program,” Nessel said in a news release. “I appreciate the MPSC’s attention to the very real risks for customers in this case.”

There are many other “flaws” in the plan, Nessel said, noting the proposal would spread the $12.6 million cost to all customers, but only benefit the select few customers volunteering in the program.

MPSC Commissioner Tremaine Phillips agreed, saying real-time usage data should be made available to all customers.

The MPSC is allowing DTE to refile its request as a pilot program with tweaks – one of which needs to be extending the shutoff notification period longer than five days, Phillips said. The utility conducted a similar prepay pilot program in the past, but it was “unpopular and saw almost all participants leave,” according to Nessel’s release.

DTE is reviewing the decision and plans to work with the MPSC on any solution, said DTE spokesman Brad Carroll.

“DTE proposed the prepay program as a voluntary program for residential customers to provide increased control over energy usage, the ability to establish a payment schedule to suit their needs and the ability to make payments toward past due balances,” Carroll said in a statement.

To read the full MPSC order, click here.

This was one of a handful of MPSC decisions made at the commission’s Dec. 21 meeting. Other orders include a $733,000 natural gas rate increase for Northern States Power Co. in the U.P. and a special solar power project for DTE and Ford Motor Co.

“Smart” meters – whether they are prepay or not – have been extremely problematic ever since they started being deployed!  Issues associated with them include billing errors/higher bills, (see 1, 2), short lifespans, cybersecurity risks, installation mishaps, mechanical issues, harmful radiation emissions, as well as fires and explosions (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).  Complaints inspired a documentary film and led to Americans demanding “opt-out” programs as well as filing lawsuits (see 1, 2, 3).  Nevertheless, proponents continue to insist that “smart” meters are essential for “energy efficiency” despite research that has proven otherwise (see 1, 2) as well as testimonies from experts.

Activist Post reports regularly about “Smart” Meters and other privacy invasive and unsafe technologies.  For more information, visit our archives and the following websites:

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