The Public Utility Commission is currently considering new rules relating to a very important and thorny issue: meter tampering. That is, on occasion a private individual may improperly disconnect, rewire or otherwise alter an electric meter in such a way as to reduce its usage measurements.

It”s an important issue for electric companies because meter tampering can result in a loss of revenue. As such, some companies want the PUC to grant them wider discretion to backbill customers with tampered meters.

And with the advent of advanced meters, such backbilling has become a much easier proposition for utilities. But it”s also true that a back-billed customer may have had nothing to do with the tampering — in fact, that customer may have moved onto the property after the tampering occurred, or the meter may have malfuctioned for unrelated reasons. That”s why this issue is so thorny for home consumers.

A related issue involves so-called “switch-holds,” which would prohibit customers from changing retail electric providers until that customer has paid for charges relating to alleged meter tampering. Also, the Texas Apartment Association is seeking notification of meter tampering on rental properties. This presents privacy concerns for residents, especially residents who may have moved in after the tampering occured.

Comments from interested parties have been filed at the Commission, which will likely soon make a decision. You can read some of the comments here.

— Eileen McPhee