PG&E: SmartMeters Overcharged Thousands

Turns out, those so-called SmartMeters from PG&E aren't so smart after all, unless their goal was to overcharge utility customers.

Pacific Gas and Electric admitted Monday that 23,000 of the meters designed to monitor and control and energy consumption had installation errors that resulted in inaccurate billing. But they, say, they don't yet know how many customers were overcharged, undercharged or how much the inaccuracies totaled. The utility had earlier said the error only impacted a "few" customers.

Now the company is in repair mode.

"While we have confidence in this technology," said PG&E Senior Vice President Helen Burt, the chief customer officer, "some of our customers question whether they can have faith in our SmartMeter program, and frankly in PG&E. "Restoring this trust is absolutely critical to us."

Monday's admittal came as a result of a directive from the California Public Utilities Commission, which has launched a probe of the SmartMeter program. San Francisco's PG&E has said recently that as many as 43,000 SmartMeters had problems.

PG&E continues to install about 10,000 of the meters per day, even as hundreds of customers who already have them complain about their skyrocketing bills. It took months for officials at the utility company to admit problems with the new meters, which digitally transmit data on gas and electricity usage via wireless technology. PG&E claims that 99 percent of the SmartMeters have been problem-free.

Admitting the huge technological problem isn't enough for Mark Toney, executive director of consumer advocacy group TURN, who on Monday renewed his call for a moratoraium on the SmartMeters.

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