EXCLUSIVE: HECO customers to pay $20M for new system - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

EXCLUSIVE: HECO customers to pay $20M for new system

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Henry Curtis Henry Curtis
Stephanie Naess Stephanie Naess
Darren Pai Darren Pai

When Hawaiian Electric Co. switched to a new billing system last summer, thousands of angry customers swamped the company's phone lines with complaints of being overcharged.

Hawaii News Now has learned that this new billing system is going to mean even higher electricity bills. Company says that it plans to pass on about $20 million to consumers for the new system.

"You would think that for all of that added money you would be getting a good system, but once they put it in they got all kinds of consumer complaints," said Henry Curtis, executive director of Life of the Land.

"People felt that their service would be cut off and if you called up to figure out what was going on, they would be put on hold an hour or two hours and so the whole thing sort of melted down."

And complaints of overbilling still persist.

Hawaii Kai resident Stephanie Naess says she's experiencing wide swings in her monthly electricity bills, even though her usage has been constant.

"I'll find that one month my bill will be $350 and then the next month even though I have not changed my behavior, at all in terms of use, it will be $500," she said.

"It's a pretty big difference."

HECO wanted to pass on even more money after costs for the system nearly tripled from $20 million to $59 million. But the company agreed to the lower figure after the state Consumer Advocate objected.

"We agreed to write off $40 million of the cost of the customer information system," said HECO spokesman Darren Pai. 

"So we are not going to be seeking to collect that from customers."

Pai said the added costs amounts to about 27 cents per month for the average consumer.

He added that HECO is getting much fewer complaints about its new billing system and has beefed up its customer service operations by adding more phone lines and by tripling the number of people answering calls.

The costs for the new billing system still requires the approval of the state Public Utilities Commission, which can reject HECO's charges or can approve even higher costs for consumers.

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