State regulators are considering possible penalties against Southern California Gas Co. for alleged faulty billing practices between June 2015 and May 2016, the California Public Utilities Commission announced Monday.
According to the CPUC, its penalty consideration case against SoCalGas is based on conclusions of a commission staff investigation that began when the commission received almost 700 billing-related consumer complaints.
A SoCalGas spokeswoman said the utility will cooperate in the investigation and expects to be cleared of any wrongdoing.
“SoCalGas is committed to providing our customers with timely and accurate bills,” Melissa Bailey said. “We have been notified of the CPUC’s order and will cooperate with the investigation. The investigation concerns a small percentage of bills during a specific time period.
“Although we are still in the preliminary stages of review, SoCalGas expects to present facts and arguments demonstrating that SoCalGas did not violate its tariffs, that fines/penalties are not warranted, and that other proposed corrective actions are not necessary,” she said.
The CPUC will investigate whether SoCalGas violated any billing regulations by allegedly repeatedly failing to issue timely monthly bills to about 47,000 customers during the winter of 2015-16; and extending the billing period for nearly 140,000 customers in November and December 2015, and to more than 13.57 million customers from 2014 to 2016, according to the commission.
The CPUC also alleges that 9.29 million gas bills from 2014 to 2016 were based on estimated usage rather than actual usage. Regulators said they were concerned that SoCalGas’ apparent practice of issuing high numbers of estimated bills runs contrary to the CPUC’s desire to provide customers with bills based on actual usage.
During the penalty consideration case, an administrative law judge will hear testimony from SoCalGas, state regulators and others, after which the judge will prepare a recommendation for consideration by the CPUC’s five commissioners.
If warranted, the recommendation could include fines and penalties of up to $50,000 per each day of a continuing violation of law, according to the commission.
–City News Service
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