Late-night robocalls irk residents; BGE apologizes

If Canton residents weren’t aware of impending smart meter installation before, they certainly are now.

In the late-night hours of Tuesday, June 24, and the wee-morning hours of Wednesday, many Canton residents received robocalls reminding them that the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company would be installing smart meters in their area in the coming days.

Canton resident Douglas Vinson, who got a call from Wisconsin at 11:57 p.m., was not amused.

“The first thing I thought was that it was my alarm and it was time to get out of bed,” he said. “Then I thought that it must be an emergency, so I answered it real fast.”

He picked up the phone, heard the recorded message from BGE, and “I was so mad it took me over an hour to get back to sleep.”
BGE spokesperson Rhea Marshall said that she wanted to extend an apology from the company to all those who received late-night calls.

“We definitely didn’t intend for that to happen,” she added. “It was a system error.”

Marshall said that the call was meant to alert residents that there would be technicians in the area. She said that residents who weren’t reached after two regular phone calls were put on the list for robocalls.

Ironically, a warning went out early last week that imposters, purporting to work for BGE in order to gain entry to victims’ homes, were again at large. Marshall said that one purpose of the robocall was to give customers a phone number to call in order to verify the authenticity of BGE employees.

Most of the time, BGE technicians can install a smart meter from the outside of a customer’s home. Sometimes, however, a technician may need to get inside if the original meter is located within a residence.

BGE says that its new smart meters keep ongoing records of customers’ gas and electricity usage. Rather than reading the meter every month, BGE has wireless access to the meter at all times.

Customers who do not wish to receive smart meters may opt out, for a $75 one-time fee and an $11 per-month additional charge.

Vinson said that his early impression of the robocall was “Change over to the smart meter or we can call you up any time in the middle of the night.”

Marshall said that this is not the case.

“If I had had some [BGE] executive’s phone number, I would have been calling him in the middle of the night to see how he likes it,” said Vinson.

by Erik Zygmont

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