DTE outages impacting small business, attorney general pushes for more credit

Posted at 5:39 PM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-16 18:23:53-04

(WXYZ) — DTE was able to restore power to a majority of their customers, but many are suffering financial loss whether it's because they had to throw out food or turn customers away.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is putting pressure on the Public Service Commission and utility companies to do more for consumers who were severely impacted.

RELATED: DTE offering $25 credit to those without power for 120+ hours after last week's storms

James and Rachel Barack have been running their tailoring business in Oak Park for eight years.

They tell 7 Action News that they lost power for five days, meaning they couldn't reach customers, power their machines, or even turn the lights on.

"I lost a lot of customers because every day they call me," said James Barack, who owns James Tailoring and Alterations. "Maybe 20-30 customers, and had no power so how are we going to talk to the customer."

Barack spent $800 on a generator on Monday morning only to have his power turned on just a few hours later.

Now, he's scrambling to finish alterations that are due for pick up by the end of the week.

"Some customers come in and their clothes are not ready," Barack said. "They got mad at me."

Mayor Marian McLellan, of Oak Park, is a loyal customer of Barack's business. She says there's seen a bunch of outages in the area including at city hall. She attributes a lot of electricity failures to a lack of tree maintenance.

"This is an area with a lot of trees. They need to get on a schedule every three years," McLellan said.

DTE's current policy provides customers with a $25 credit upon request if their investigation of the customer's request determines they have experienced any of the following:

  • An outage* of more than 120 hours under catastrophic conditions. Catastrophic conditions are defined as an event that results in an official state of emergency or an event that results in an interruption of 10 percent or more of the utility’s customers.
  • A power outage* of more than 16 hours under non-catastrophic conditions.
  • Eight or more outages* during a 12-month period. Once a credit has been received, the 12-month period resets.

Under the policy, Barack would be eligible for the $25 credit, but he says that wouldn't even begin to cover his damages.

"That's nothing, you know – nothing," Barack said.

Nessel agrees with Barack and is calling on the Public Service Commission, the regulating agency, to step in.

RELATED: Michigan AG calls on DTE, Consumers to issue credits for power outages, create fund

She believes utility companies like DTE should automatically credit impacted customers and not make them file an application.

"We think they need to be a little bit more aggressive in terms of protecting customers because consumers are really getting a raw deal right now," Nessel said.

Barack says he was forced to shut down his business during the COVID lockdowns and this is just another blow.

"Already we got hurt because of corona you know, now we have no power that's too much," Barack said.

In a statement, DTE said they have been identifying customers who qualify for credit and they will be notified this week. They said the credit will be applied to their account within the next 45 days.