The state is requiring electric utilities to provide more information to customers under legislation that was prompted by months of problematic bills issued by Central Maine Power Co.

Gov. Janet Mills signed the bills Thursday. They require investor-owned utilities in the state to provide to customers a 10-year history of transmission and service rates annually, and also to clearly display consumer assistance lines for customers on their billing statements. A 10-year history of rates also would be posted on the website of the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

The laws also allow the PUC to require that utilities issue corrections to customers if they provide misleading, deceptive or inaccurate information.

CMP, which delivers electricity to more than 600,000 Maine customers, encountered chronic problems after installing a new billing system in October 2017. At one point, 97,000 customers received bills that were 50 percent higher than the previous winter.

The company said last month that it had mostly resolved the issues after working through a backlog of thousands of bills. The PUC is in the midst of an investigation of CMP’s billing and customer service operations.

One of the bills Mills signed Thursday was sponsored by Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, and is meant to make CMP more accountable for the information it provides to customers. Berry has been critical of CMP and Emera Maine, which serves northern Maine, and introduced legislation for the investor-owned companies in the state to be replaced with consumer-owned utilities. That proposal is pending in the Maine Legislature.

Berry said his bill is meant to address “concerns that arose from CMP’s representations to customers of their recent rate increases and ongoing billing and metering problems.”

He said that while the measure doesn’t solve all the problems facing utility customers, it “will at least help ensure that utilities cannot misrepresent their regulated rates without some measure of accountability.”

The second bill, which was sponsored by state Rep. Walter Riseman, I-Harrison, is intended to provide customers with more information about their electricity usage. It will require utility bills to include customer usage data for the same month in each of the two previous years.

A spokeswoman for CMP said the utility conducts research to try to provide customer billing statements that are informative and clear.

“CMP can support measures taken in the interests of helping customers understand the complexity of the various rate components of their bills and directing them to resources for more information,” Catharine Hartnett said in a statement. “We know there is often a fine line between helpful information and too much information on a bill, which is why we use our website as a resource to help customers access more detailed information about their accounts.”

She also said that a free tool on the CMP website addresses the issues raised in Riseman’s bill, allowing customers to track electricity use on a daily basis.

Both bills will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns for the year.

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