PG&E exec admits snooping on SmartMeter critics

November 9, 2010 7:59:53 AM PST
One of PG&E's employees admits he was spying on opponents of one of its most controversial programs. This is yet another public relations embarrassment over SmartMeters that has yet to be resolved.

Critics of PG&E say this latest action is symbolic of what the utility company has become: "deceptive and untrustworthy" and they now wonder if the company has more to hide.

A consumer last week discovered that a senior executive of PG&E's SmartMeter program had tried using a false name to join an online group opposed to the meters. The monitor of the online discussion group noticed the email used also had another name attached to it, which was recognized as that of PG&E's executive William Devereaux. Devereaux has admitted to ABC7's media partner the San Jose Mercury News that he used the false name and had been secretly monitoring other online forums critical of PG&E.

The SmartMeter program has met widespread public resistance because consumers have accused the digital devices of causing wild spikes in their electric bills. Some are also complaining of possible health issues. They are worried about electromagnetic radiation from the devices. But an independent survey found nothing wrong with the SmartMeters' accuracy, instead blaming PG&E for not educating consumers enough and for terrible customer service dealing with complaints.

William Devereaux, senior director of PG&E's SmartMeter program, is explaining his snooping around on customers on the Internet, saying:

"I anonymously joined a couple of anti-SmartMeter websites in the spirit of understanding what they are thinking."

Although the PG&E executive says he acted alone, without informing other fellow executives, it's still not clear how the utility company will react. So far there's been no comment yet from PG&E about this employee's secretive monitoring.


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