The ability of utilities to charge a fee to customers who refuse a smart meter was dealt a serious blow today in California. It appears that “opt out” fees for customers of Southern California Edison (SCE) have been placed on hold for 120 days pending a CPUC determination of whether the fees are in fact legal or not.
It is still unclear what effect- if any- this decision may have on customers of other monopoly utilities in CA like PG&E and SDG&E- or for that matter municipal utilities.
According to the Burbank Action website- a great site to follow for smart meter news affecting Southern California:
The CA Public Utilities Commission has temporarily suspended SCE’s opt out fees, effective June 4, for 120 days while they look into this matter. Consumers Power Alliance, meanwhile, is encouraging residents to opt-out of SCE smart meters today, and has issued an alert and advice to SCE customers. CPA is also encouraging SCE customers to file complaints with CPA’s hired law firm (read more below).
Action you can take?
Please share this CPA advisory below with other family and friends you know who are SCE customers. IMPORTANT: The advice and recommendations below apply ONLY to SCE Customers (not BWP, GWP or LADWP customers):
1. (June 4, 2012) Due to legal action by Consumers Power Alliance (CPA), the PUC has suspended SCE Opt-Out Fees effective 4 June 2012 for up to 120 days while staff reviews. Opt-Outs are proceeding on a District basis…and SCE is continuing to install smart meters like there is no tomorrow.
2. Opt Out Now
SCE customers throughout the state are receiving Opt-Out letters. They may come certified mail or “critical mail.” The Notices have varying default deadlines, depending on where you live. If you were on Delay Install, you MUST return the form by the deadline noted in the letter, or you will be smart-metered. We suggest that you make a copy of the signed form and return it immediately. In addition, you may call 800.810.2369 – now only between 8 AM and 5 PM. Note: Opt-Out Plans allow you to have the Smart Meter removed at any time for any or no reason, but it may take time to get it removed, and you may have to wait for an analog meter.
3. Complaints are Requested
Our attorney, Mr. Tobin, recommends that our chances of getting what we want will improve if we provide documented incidents and other complaints to the PUC. Our goals include (a) immediate restoration of meters for those who got smart-metered when on the Delay Install list, (b) reduced fees, (c) Opt-Out Applications on SCE website, (d) SCE should make their website more Opt-Out accessible and post up-to-date information, (e) improve notification procedures, (f) stop installers from forcing installations , (g) impose deadlines for completing restorations, (h) longer hours for calling to Opt-Out,while default installs are happening, and (i) more respectful customer service.
Please email your letters of complaint to Channing at firstname.lastname@example.org with the notation CPA Support – Letter of Complaint, so the law firm can get them in the right hands.
In addition, encourage your friends and family in SCE territory to contact Consumers Power Alliance today, and support their efforts, receive their e-mail updates and alerts, and donate to their Legal Fund. They can do this by visiting the CPA website for more details at: http://www.consumerspoweralliance.com
June 8th Update: Oh we’re playing this game again are we? CPUC and the utilities are again pretending that they are above the law- though the advice letter which is the basis for fee charging is suspended, the CPUC is insisting that the fees have not suspended- a strange kind of doublethink.
Addendum from Burbank Action: One of our readers reported that he contacted SCE and the CPUC and reps from both organizations told him the fees had not been suspended. Those who are receiving similar responses, or have questions about the fee suspension, or have complaints about the SCE smart meter opt out program and fees, should contact CPA at email@example.com. I’ve thus updated our post to include more detailed info (below) from CPA’s alert regarding Item #1:
“1. (Santa Barbara, CA – June 4, 2012) Per the attached Suspension Notice issued by the CPUC Energy Division, the SCE Advice Letter implementing its Smart Meter Opt-Out Plan, recently protested by CPA , has been suspended effective 4 June for up to 120 days for staff review. As long as this Advice Letter remains suspended, SCE has no authorization to implement the rates or other terms and conditions contained in the Advice Letter.
“We currently do not know how this will impact Opt-Out fees for SCE and the Gas Company or the Opt-Out practices by SCE protested by CPA. However, Opt-Outs are proceeding on a District basis…and SCE is continuing to install smart meters like there is no tomorrow.”
Other sources for Southern California smart meter information include:
Southern Californians for Wired Solutions: firstname.lastname@example.org