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News Release
OPUC Investigation of Complaints Saves Customers over $1 million in 2001
 
April 19, 2002 (2002 - 009)
 
Contacts:  Roy Hemmingway, Chairman, 503 378-6611; Joan H. Smith, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Lee Beyer, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Bob Valdez, Public Information Officer, 503 378-8962
 
Salem, OR – Customers of Oregon’s regulated utilities were saved $1.13 million dollars in 2001 due to the efforts of the Oregon Public Utility Commission’s Consumer Services Division.
 
The savings resulted from dispute investigations by PUC compliance specialists concerning billing procedures and other matters, said Consumer Services administrator Clark Jackson, "Customers who have questions about their utility services or their bills should first contact their local company. If the matter cannot be resolved, they should contact the PUC."  Jackson added complaints rose by 36 percent last year and have become increasingly complex.
 
Typical cases include wrong rate schedules being used, customers being charged for features they had not ordered and a variety of other billing errors.
 
In most cases involving consumer complaints, it was determined that utilities acted properly. However, in 26 percent of the complaints investigated, the PUC found the utility companies had incorrectly charged customers or had followed incorrect procedures.
 
Some examples of Consumer Services assistance:
  • Investigation of a Portland area business billing error resulted in the utility refunding an $1800 overpayment. Additionally, the consumer received a $200 credit from the utility for the inconvenience caused by the delay in receiving the refund
  • Helped consumers throughout Oregon get billing problems corrected. Unordered features being given to the customers without the consumers having ordered them caused many of these problems, or orders placed based on misleading or incorrect information. The credits ranged from a Grants Pass consumer getting $26.95, to a Portland customer who received $337.00.
 
In 2001, the division received 12,097 inquiries from customers of regulated electric, natural gas, telephone and water companies. Of these, 8325 involved utility customer complaints. Of these complaints, more than 74 percent were against telephone companies.
 
The PUC Consumer Services Division is located at 550 Capitol St. N. E., Suite 215, Salem, Oregon. The toll-free consumer complaint line is 1-800-522-2404.
 
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