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Consumers Energy under investigation after 13 Help Team looks into billing concerns

The investigation comes after the 13 Help Team heard from several customers with smart meter problems, billing issues and installment delays.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Michigan Public Service Commission has launched an investigation into Consumers Energy following a series of reports by the 13 Help Team who spoke to multiple customers with skyrocketing energy bills and installment delays

In June, dozens of viewers like Misty Kanar reached out with concerns about an increase in their utility bills.

Kanar, a single mom who lives with her kids on the outskirts of Muskegon, called the help team after her electric bill topped $1,000. 

“I'm trying to pay all my bills, trying to keep food on the table,” she explained. “It's hard. It's a struggle… the electricity bill is not making it any easier for me.”

“Our Consumers' bill is up and down constantly,” Kanar said. 

Consumers Energy says spiking costs on some bills are tied to its transition to a modern meter system, adopting the newer 5G technology instead of the 3G meters the utility company used in past years.

The commission is now investigating Consumers after receiving several complaints about malfunctioning gas meters, overcharging due to extended meter reads and delays in the installation for electric and gas services or customers. 

Consumers Energy reportedly began estimating bill totals for customers with outdated meters as the company worked to transition from 3G to 4G meters.

The commission says the meters were not working correctly at the time, showing blank screens. In 2019, the commission granted Consumers a waiver while the meters were upgraded to 4G technology. 

The commission says it has received 177 customer complaints from January 2022 to May 2023 for Consumers failing to complete 90% of new service installations within 15 business days. 

The commission is giving Consumers until August 4 to address the following issues among others:

  • An explanation of Consumers’ performance history on meter reading from 2020 to present, including the number of customers receiving consecutive meter readings beyond two consecutive months, reasons why customer bills were estimated, who was held accountable for consecutive estimated readings, and who from Consumers or its contractor provided employees to read broken meters.
  • An explanation of Consumers’ communications with customers about estimated reads, the number of complaints the utility has received, whether customers were provided information on how to read their meters, and whether customers were receiving estimated readings because of the 3G issue or because of malfunctioning meters.
  • An explanation of why Consumers did not disclose the number of malfunctioning meters or inform the MPSC that customers would be receiving estimated meter readings until new meters were installed.
  • Data on how many 3G and 4G meters have been affected by contaminated batteries in each year in 2020 through 2023, and on how many 3G and 4G meters have been affected by other issues that caused them not to display readings.

The Michigan Public Service Commission will then make recommendations to Consumers in September.

In a statement, Consumers Energy said Friday:

“Consumers Energy is committed to doing right by its customers and improving our performance and communications. We will cooperate with the commission on this effort and are focused on delivering the service our customers and the MPSC expect.”

If a customer suspects they may be affected or has noticed inexplicable discrepancies in invoices or account statements, Consumers advised you should contact its customer service department via telephone at 1(800) 477-5050.

It also provided an email address customers can utilize to send photos of their actual meter readings: ReportMyRead@cmsenergy.com.


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