PURA: DPUC Releases Consumer Service Complaint Scorecard for CY 2010

March 31, 2011
 
DPUC Releases Consumer Service Complaint Scorecard for CY 2010
 
According to the Consumer Scorecard released today by the Department of Public Utility Control (Department), the Departmentís Consumer Services Unit (CSU) received fewer consumer complaints per 100,000 customers during calendar year 2010 from customers of:  Thames Valley Communications, United Illuminating, Connecticut Natural Gas, Cox Connecticut Telecommunications, Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut and Viridian Energy than it did for their industry peers in Connecticut.
 
For the fifth consecutive year, CSU received the fewest complaints per 100,000 customers from customers of the Aquarion Water Company when taking into account all utility sectors in Connecticut.
 
CSU received more consumer complaints per 100,000 customers in calendar year 2010 from customers of:  Comcast Middletown, Connecticut Light and Power Company, Southern Connecticut Gas, One Communications, United Water Systems and NextEra Energy Services than it did for their industry peers in Connecticut.
 
The Consumer Scorecard compares the number of complaints regarding billing, deposits, general complaints, meters, installations, outages, payment arrangements, quality of service, slamming and terminations.  Customer inquiries related to requests for general information, utility rates and tariffs, telephone numbers or calls involving general questions from consumers are not included in the Consumer Scorecard figures.
 
During CY 2010, the number of consumer telephone calls to the Departmentís CSU totaled about 45,000.  In about 3,917 cases, staff of the CSU conducted a formal investigation of the customer complaint, a decrease of 6% from the 4,168 formal investigations conducted by CSU in CY 2009.  This decrease in complaints occurred mostly in the areas of:  billing, installations, metering, payment arrangements and terminations.

For calendar year 2010, overall complaints involving all electric companies were essentially unchanged from the previous year; complaints regarding all natural gas companies decreased by 15% compared to the previous year, and cable company complaints decreased by 22% compared to the previous year.  Complaints involving all telecommunications companies decreased overall by 5% compared to the previous year, while all regulated water company complaints were virtually unchanged from the previous year.
 
Complaints involving electric suppliers and aggregators rose from 90 in CY 2009 to 222 in CY 2010, while the number of customers who switched to an electric supplier grew from 280,000 in December 2009 to 630,000 in December 2010.
 
The Consumer Scorecard ranks 63 companies: 3 gas companies, 2 electric companies, 7 telecommunications companies, 24 video cable franchises, 6 water companies and 21 electric suppliers and aggregators.
 
The overall complaint figures for each industry received during calendar year 2010 fluctuated from those received in prior calendar years as follows:
 
 Industry CY 2010  CY 2009  CY 2008  CY 2007 
 All  3917 4168  3857  3469 
 Cable  845 1080  874  796 
 Electric 1760  1773  1418  1544 
 Gas 553  654  798  549 
 Telecommunications 446  470  609  505 
 Water 46  47  48  60 
 Video Service Provider 42  57  50  13 
 Electric Suppliers 222  90  70 
 
 
The Consumer Scorecard is based on an index number that shows the number of complaints per 100,000 customers, which enables comparison of large and small companies alike.  For very small companies, even a minor change in the number of complaints could dramatically change a companyís score from one year to the next.  To calculate the scorecard, the DPUC uses only those contacts classified as jurisdictional complaints; that is, calls, letters or e-mails from customers who first contacted the utility company about their complaint but remained dissatisfied even after speaking to the utility company.  The information in the Consumer Scorecard does not reflect the validity of the complaint, just that the customer was not satisfied with the companyís service, response or proposed resolution to his or her complaint.
 
Some fluctuation for any one company can be expected from a scorecard rating in one year to the next.  This can be based upon special or seasonal circumstances such as weather-related issues, rate case proceedings, company changes to its customer service practices and procedures, rising energy prices, an increase in customers, changes in the economy, quality of service, the financial and economic demographics of a companyís service territory, the availability of energy assistance funds, termination activity, uncollectible levels and the like.
 
The DPUCís Vice Chairman, John W. Betkoski III (lead Commissioner for water issues), praised Aquarion ďfor achieving this record for the last five yearsĒ.  The DPUCís Chairman, Kevin M. DelGobbo, commenting on the Consumer Scorecard stated, "The Consumer Scorecard is one tool to measure a utility companyís customer satisfaction but it is not the definitive instrument to evaluate the level of service that a utility company provides to its customers or how those customers rate the company's customer service.  In this time of extraordinary economic challenges, the Department strongly believes that each utility company must have as its first priority to provide high quality customer service as well as creating an environment in which its customers believe that they are getting the customer service they are paying for and that they are in fact the company's number one priority.Ē
 
Attached for your convenience is a copy of the CY 2010 Consumer Scorecard.  The CY 2010 Consumer Scorecard and Press Release are also posted on the Departmentís web page.