More utilities being investigated for billing complaints
Paul Kirby reports in the Daily Freeman that Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. is now not the only New York utility being investigated for billing practices by the New York State Department of Public Service. New York State Electric & Gas Corp. and Rochester Gas & Electric Corp. are also being investigated for potential mismanagement of their utilities’ billing systems and protocols the New York State Department of Public Service announced on Dec. 28. “Ensuring customer bills are accurate is the singular responsibility of the utility, and this expanded investigation of RG&E and NYSEG will determine what went wrong and how will it be resolved,” said the Department Chief Executive Officer Rory M. Christian. “Our bottom line is simple: we hold utilities accountable for any billing errors and we will require the companies to hold customers harmless.” Like Central Hudson, the two other utilities have seen a significant spike in the number of complaints from customers. “As a result, Department staff commenced a review and an investigation related to a September 2022 change to the companies’ customer information and billing system,” the announcement from the overseers said. A report about Central Hudson was released on Dec. 15 by the Public Service Commission’s Office of Investigations and Enforcement and the Public Service Commission voted Dec. 15 to order Central Hudson to answer allegations contained in the report within 30 days. The Public Service Commission is deciding about “proceeding to determine whether the commission should pursue a civil penalty action against Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation for apparent failures related to the company’s new customer information and billing system,” a commission statement said. U.S. Rep. Pat Ryan, who represents the 19th Congressional District in 2022 and the 18th District in 2023, said on Dec. 28 that, “It is utterly disgraceful that hard-working New Yorkers are paying the price for utility companies’ incompetence.... I will not rest until any utility found to be ripping off customers or in violation of contract is held fully accountable.” State Sen. Michelle Hinchey, a Democrat from Saugerties, made a similar comment, saying, “People have lost faith in their utility companies, but one thing is for certain—erroneous billing practices cannot be the new normal.... All utility companies must be held accountable to the New Yorkers they are bound to serve, and we will keep holding their feet to the fire to ensure that families can budget their monthly expenses, plan accordingly, and feel secure knowing what to expect from their utility bill.” The Public Service Department has heard about incorrect bills being sent to consumers or very late bills being sent from New York State Electric & Gas Corp. and Rochester Gas & Electric Corp. This year the number of consumer complaints against the two companies rose to more than 4,700, which is 60 percent more than the two previous years combined. Read the full story in the Daily Freeman.