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New APS CEO apologizes for price-comparison tool that pointed 6,600 customers to more expensive plans

Most of the customers overpaid by less than $50. The company is supposed to reimburse those customers and give them a $25 credit.

The new head of the Arizona Public Service utility company got a verbal lashing before regulators on Wednesday. 

APS CEO Jeff Guldner appeared before the Arizona Corporation Commission to answer for the latest problem plaguing the electricity giant: A faulty price comparison tool.

"We have not met your, nor our own, expectations," Guldner said. "It is our responsibility to do better and you have my commitment that we will do better."

Problems with the tool allegedly began in February, according to APS. The tool was suspended last month after two customers demonstrated how it directed them to more expensive plans. 

PREVIOUS: APS suspends price comparison tool after customers said it steered them to higher rates

The ramifications of the blunder were serious and far-reaching, given that 6,600 total customers paid more than they should have for electricity on the advice of APS.

But Guldner's appearance marked what some hope is a turning point for the embattled company that impacts more than 1.1 million Arizonans. 

Guldner apologized for the bad advice that APS's computer program gave thousands of customers and vowed to make those customers whole. 

He said most of the customers overpaid by less than $50. Guldner said the company would reimburse those customers and give them a $25 credit. 

RELATED: Customers get refunds after APS gave bad advice. Has the power giant fixed the problem?

During the hearing, an APS computer IT representative confirmed that the company, not its vendor Grid X, was responsible for false data to customers. 

The error happened during a change in its computer system in February, which resulted in an incorrect “mapping of inputs,” the APS representative said. 

The on-peak hours were mapped one hour differently than what they should have been, he said.

But the hearing was also a chance for people to air ongoing grievances against the commission, which approved the rate structure that allows APS to charge customers more for power than any other company in Arizona. 

RELATED: APS to give refunds to customers due to a comparison tool malfunction

"I'm frustrated," said Stacey Champion, an APS customer advocate. 

"Now we're looking at a whole other year potentially of customers not having any relief."

The director of RUCO, a state agency that is supposed to watch out for utility customers, told the commission that APS needs a culture change.

RELATED: Is a taxpayer-funded office that is supposed to advocate for Arizona’s utility ratepayers standing up to APS?

But Commissioner Sandra Kennedy chided RUCO, continuing a blame game about whether those who are supposed to be the watchdogs are actually doing their job.

RELATED: Audit report: APS earned $77 million more than expected in 2018, 80% from customers

RELATED: Internal APS surveys reveal eroding customer satisfaction