State investigates NYSEG utility billing

Dec. 28—The New York State Department of Public Service announced on Wednesday it has expanded its investigation into New York State Electric & Gas Corp. and Rochester Gas & Electric Corp. potential mismanagement of their utilities' billing systems and protocols. As part of the investigation, the department's consumer advocate will host a series of public forums in affected areas starting in January to hear consumer concerns first-hand, according to a media release.

NYSEG and RG&E are both subsidiaries of Avangrid Inc.

"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 department CEO 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."

According to the release, a problems with the two utilities' billing systems became apparent when the department "began to see a significant spike in the number of complaints from customers." As a result, staff began a review and an investigation related to a September 2022 change to the companies' customer information and billing system.

The complaints range from incorrect bills being sent to consumers or very late bills being sent. In 2022, the number of consumer complaints against the two companies rose to more than 4,700, 60% more than the two previous years combined, the release said.

According to the release, customers should first contact their utility for resolution and if unable to get a satisfactory resolution from the utility provider, customers should contact the department's Office of Consumer Services to file a complaint.

The New York State Home Energy Fair Practices Act has protections for residential customers regarding their utility services, the release said. The rights include the option to pay bills in installments, a cap on late fees, sufficient notice prior to services being shut off, and protections for those on a fixed income or with medical conditions. More information is available from the Department of Public Service website.

NYSEG serves 907,336 electric customers and 270,204 natural gas customers across more than 40 percent of upstate New York, the release said. RG&E serves about 385,925 electric customers and 319,737 natural gas customers in a nine-county region centered in the city of Rochester.