By Associated Press - Monday, May 11, 2020

HALLOWELL, Maine (AP) - Central Maine Power is setting aside $500,000 to help customers struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic, under a proposed settlement of an investigation into improper disconnect notices mailed last winter.

The Public Utilities Commission investigated whether the company violated state rules with the language included in the disconnect notices.

The proposed settlement reached by CMP and the public advocate needs PUC approval. Under the proposal, the executive chairman of CMP’s board would issue a public apology in addition to CMP sending a letter to customers acknowledging it violated PUC rules.

“CMP regrets that customer communications addressing nonpayment and disconnections during the winter period did not reflect our commitment as a company to be clear and accurate,” said Catharine Hartnett, spokewoman for CMP’s parent, Avangrid.

Rep. Seth Berry, House chairman of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, called it the “latest pattern of egregious abuse of customers.”

“CMP should make full amends for the harm they have inflicted on hundreds of customers over months and years, not walk away as if they had made only a small mistake,” he said.

Under the rules, CMP cannot disconnect customers between Nov. 15 and April 15 without approval of the PUC’s consumer assistance division.

The coronavirus pandemic has led the PUC to order all utilities to suspend disconnections until further notice.

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