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AZ Corporation Commission Chair may pursue APS customer refunds

“It turns out that these new, modern rate plans were extremely confusing to customers," Burns wrote.

PHOENIX — Citing “serious, serious problems” with APS’s public outreach and education efforts since 2017, Corporation Commission Chair Bob Burns is calling for drastic new measures to make customers who overpaid whole again.

Exactly how that would happen, Burns said, depends on hearings moving forward. But Burns suggests the Corporation Commission make the current APS rates “interim” and pursue the possibility that APS refund customers what the company allegedly overearned since 2017.

Last week, 12 News reported the findings of a new independent study that concluded APS executives failed on several fronts to properly educate customers about their electricity billing options.

“To me our system of justice says if you cause damage to someone, whether it’s intentional or not, there needs to be some form of recourse to those who have been damaged,” Burns said in an interview with 12 News. “There needs to be some recourse, some means for them (customers) to be held harmless and not suffer economic damage, if you will.”

A report generated by an independent auditor last year concluded APS’ actual Return on Equity (ROE) was 10.45% which was in excess of the actual ROE of 10%. It also found that with adjustor revenues factored in, APS had earned $77 million more than expected.

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“It turns out that these new, modern rate plans were extremely confusing to customers, even though Mr. Don Brandt (APS’s former Chief Executive Officer and President) stated that APS’s COEP (Community Outreach and Education Program) was the envy of the industry and that as far as he knew, APS customers were very pleased with APS,” Burns wrote in a May 29 letter to commissioners.

12 News has requested interviews with APS CEO Jeff Guldner and Vice President of Communications Jessica Pacheco to discuss the latest report. Both declined.  A spokesperson issued a written statement about the report.

“Our focus is on learning all we can from the findings and continuously improving in the area of customer communications. We are reviewing the report closely with a focus on the recommendations that benefit our customers,” said Jill Hanks, spokesperson for APS.

Burns said he is inviting commissioners, APS and other related parties to discuss ways to hold “APS customers harmless” during an open meeting next month.

“APS has due process rights. So we have to have a very strong case if we are going to move forward,” Burns said.