Despite a surge in complaints that billing delays and errors have led Pacific Gas & Electric to unfairly shut off customer utility service, an analysis by the company appears to show little change over five years except when a new billing system was introduced in 2003. In response to complaints about billing problems filed with the California Public Utilities Commission (<i>Circuit<\/i>, September 10, 2004), the company was to present a report to utility regulators November 10, although it had not been publicly released at press time. PG&E spokesperson Christy Dennis said that with September as a benchmark, five years of shutoff data show that aside from a spike in September 2003, shutoffs have not shown any dramatic upward trend. In September 2000, PG&E shut off power to 13,558 customers who had not paid their utility bills. In September 2001, there were 11,605 shutoffs, and 12 months later there were 14,529. Shutoffs spiked to 26,960 in September 2003, then fell to 16,103 disconnections because of payment delinquencies this last September. Dennis characterized the September shutoff data as ?a pretty good snapshot? and said that the spike in 2003 came when PG&E introduced a complex new billing system. As a result, the company did not perform collections for some five months. Dennis added that customers who are delinquent on their bill payments generally have a two-and-a-half-month grace period before their power is cut off. ?We feel we give customers ample time before facing termination of service,? she said. However, Bob Finkelstein, executive director of The Utility Reform Network, offered a very different view of what is ample time. ?They forgive their own inability to issue timely and accurate bills, but they have no problem getting to customers? homes to shut them off, even where the customers? failure to pay is a direct result of PG&E?s failure to bill them the right amount,? he said. The day before PG&E?s explanation was due at the commission, TURN held a press conference denouncing the utility for pulling the plug during winter months on ratepayers who have not paid their utility bills. The consumer group also slammed the utility for its flawed back billing, unsent bills, and use of estimated usage in lieu of monthly meter reading, which has resulted in overpayments. TURN also claimed that PG&E did not follow its own billing rules. Dennis replied that the consumer group pushes for a moratorium on winter shutoffs every year. She defended the utility?s action, noting it does not cut off power to homes when the temperature drops below 36 degrees or rises above 96 degrees.