Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE (WJZ)– There’s frustration and outright anger at BGE. It’s all over a small fee charged to all customers, even to those who lost power for days during that powerful storm that tore through the state.
Derek Valcourt has more on this controversial policy.
It sounds strange but it’s all legal. You may not have had power but BGE can still collect a special charge on your bill.
A lot of tall trees surround Monye Weiner’s Pikesville home, part of why she loses power a lot, including the last storm.
“I was out of power for six days,” she said.
Now she’s one of many BGE customers angry to learn that state law allows the utility to recover some of its losses incurred during the storm by adding a bill stabilization fee under the distribution portion of their bills.
“I think six is way beyond pain and suffering. And now you’re telling me I have to pay them for my pain and suffering?” Weiner said.
Maryland’s Public Service Commission allows the fee and BGE says they need it.
“What I think the commission tried to do is to strike a balance between ensuring that the utility remains financially strong and can reinvest in its system– the poles, the wires and that type of thing– while at the same time making sure the customers are not unnecessarily financially burdened during a power outage that goes on for days,” Rob Gould, BGE spokesman, said.
For most customers, the fee on your bill may be less than a dollar. Consumer advocates say it may be pennies but it still makes no sense.
“I think it is nickling and diming consumers,” Jenny Levin, an advocate with Maryland Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), said. “They’ve seen that they can get away with it. They’ve done it time and time again. And instead of focusing on how they can recover costs, they need to be focused on how they can prevent this from happening again.”
“A dollar’s a dollar,” Weiner said.
Customers like Weiner know the fee won’t break her bank account but she says she lost money because of the power outage and thinks BGE shouldn’t get an extra cent.
“It’s the principal,” she said.
Customers aren’t the only ones who don’t like it. State Senator Brian Frosh plans to introduce a bill next year that would stop utilities from charging customers for storm-related losses.
Last year, the PSC ruled that utility companies can collect a fee on losses incurred during the first 24 hours of a storm.