Ask Mom! Utility Employees Rig Customer Survey

Yes, our son gave us excellent service on our service call, but the little snot-faced b*stard didn't make his bed or take out the garbage like we asked. Maybe next time you could send out somebody with a little better upbringing.

Tues Mar 16, 11:18AM ET (2004)

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Love is ... giving a glowing report on the work of your son or daughter who is employed by Southern California Edison in a customer satisfaction survey.

When Edison customers were surveyed to get feedback, pollsters received answers expressing delight at the service received.

But the objectivity of these results came under question when it was learned that employees had hacked into the data system and changed the phone numbers of those to be surveyed to those of friends and family, the utility said on Monday.

Rosemead, California-based SCE said an ongoing investigation showed that at least 12 employees had falsified data and the company promised to promptly repay funds which could amount to millions of dollars it received inappropriately based on customer satisfaction surveys.

"These actions are inconsistent with a trust that is essential for you to have in us," SCE chairman John Bryson wrote on Monday in a letter to the president of the California Public Utilities Commission Michael Peevey.

SCE is a unit of Rosemead, Calif.-based Edison International.

Bryson said the utility was taking disciplinary action against the employees responsible beginning Monday. An investigation was launched following an anonymous tip-off.

Utilities regulators approved a total of $28 million from 1997 through 2000 for SCE based on customer satisfaction surveys. Potential rewards amounting to $10 million for 2001 and 2002 are still pending before California regulators.

Consumer advocate Doug Heller of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights said the employees' action might indicate deeper problems with the company's treatment of its customers.

"If service was very good then no one would need to make sure they called their parents," Heller said.


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