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AG investigates, PG&E CEO defends high electric bills - abc27 WHTM

AG investigates, PG&E CEO defends high electric bills

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

Your complaints about electric bills have been loud.

They've been clear.

They've been numerous.

They've been heard in Harrisburg's Strawberry Square.

"Dennis, we've gotten hundreds of complaints," said Joe Peters, spokesman for Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane. The AG, which has a division devoted to consumer protection, is now investigating variable-rate electric bills that have doubled, tripled, even quadrupled.

We've been telling you about the problem for weeks, and the AG wants to hear from customers who feel cheated or deceived. It wants consumers to file a formal complaint and even share documentation like contracts, bills and marketing materials. It will investigate whether companies engaged in bait-and-switch, fraud or price gouging.

"Everybody is for making a profit and being pro-business," Peters said. "But when companies take advantage, and most companies are good citizens when it comes to their customers, there are a few and we're looking at those where that may not be the case."

Many disgruntled Midstaters are pointing fingers at one company in particular, Pennsylvania Gas and Electric, and the head of the company knows it.

"We do have a large number of complaints, and we are working through them," admits Doug Marcille, CEO of US Gas and Electric, PG&E's parent company based in Florida.

I spoke with Marcille by phone Tuesday afternoon. He called the high electric bills a "once in a generation" situation and a perfect storm of low temperatures, high demand and high wholesale prices. He doesn't fear investigations by the Attorney General or the Public Utility Commission.

"We are sympathetic to our customers situation," Marcille said. "But we in no way, shape, or form feel that we misrepresented our products, our company or our value proposition."

PG&E's only Pennsylvania presence is a mailbox inside a Harrisburg store. Marcille said upset customers can get prompt response by phone or email.

"We do not have a physical office in Pennsylvania. We do have one in New Jersey that's very near to Pennsylvania."

We are hearing that PG&E has re-worked high electric bills downward for some customers but numerous complaints to abc27 had harsh words for PG&E. One woman said she was "suckered in" and a man felt the company "ripped him off." What does Marcille say to them?

"I just caution people not to over-react to an extreme set of circumstances that have really hurt everyone at every level in this marketplace."

And society's most vulnerable is the level most concerning the Attorney General.

"The impact on seniors and the poor who have not planned on this is extraordinary," Peters said.

To download a complaint form with the Attorney General's office, click here.

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