10/4/2018 3:53:00 PM State agency looking into Frontier notice shortcomings
The MN Public Utilities Commission meets today (October 4) to decide what if any action is needed to remedy the fact that almost 30 percent of Frontier’s Minnesota customers failed to receive company notice of public hearings meant to gather complaints about Frontier service.
The Chisago County Press attended the hearing at Wyoming City Hall (story Sept.20.) It was later discovered that many in the customer base who would be likely to attend the Wyoming hearing were not sent the required 10-day notice.
The PUC had also ordered Frontier to notify customers through newspaper ads, (the one in this paper complied with notice mandates) and through direct mailings and/or notices inside of billing statements.
Frontier acknowledged the oversight after citizens complained at the hearing in McGregor that they hadn’t been notified by Frontier. These are the 27,000 customers who receive electronic billing statements. The company estimates 28 percent of its customers in Minnesota weren’t notified. Customers attending the Slayton and Lakeville hearings DID get proper notice.
According to the PUC staff briefing papers for the meeting today, the commission is going to review a few options.
The staff recommends as the most efficient and cost effective remedy, that Frontier be directed to do a direct mailer to electronically billed customers and include a complaint form they could fill out and send to regulators directly.
The company also could be ordered to send the forms and an explanatory letter to all its Minnesota customers.
There could be hearings added, but this option delays the process. Staff are advising that so many complaints have been collected already it is apparent the “...parties have a full understanding of the nature of customer complaints against Frontier.”
And finally-- the PUC could do nothing.
The staff memo notes, “...the high attendance at hearings (held in September)demonstrates the public hearings have accomplished their purpose.” This is followed by the disclaimer that, “...some may see this option as unacceptable if they believe the Commission should expect regulated companies to strictly follow the Commission’s orders enabling public participation.”
The Wyoming city hall testimony ran at least three hours and covered a range of complaints about customer service, product inferiority, service outages and billing issues. A legal counsel representative for Frontier apologized to those attending.
The hearing process was ordered by the PUC in April 2018 after the commission consumer affairs division saw an unusual number of complaints submitted about Frontier. Evidence and statements submitted both at the hearings, on-line and by hard copy to the state regulators become part of the investigative record. The Administrative Law Judge overseeing the public hearings will accept copies of bills, notes of conversations, etc. and review oral complaints recorded and transcribed, and draft a report.
This was scheduled to be done around the end of October, but depending on this latest lack of notice issue, the process may stretch. Tracking the detailed progress is best done at the MN PUC website, the docket number is 18-122.