News10NBC Investigates: RG&E still reconciling years-old bills

News10NBC Investigates: RG&E still reconciling years-old bills

News10NBC Investigates: RG&E still reconciling years-old bills

When was the last time a meter reader was at your home taking an actual reading of your gas and electric usage?  If you don’t know the answer to that, now is the time to go and grab your bill.  If you’ve been paying your monthly bill based on estimates, you could be in trouble. 

Keri Moser, a single mother of four, bought a 1,200-sqare-foot home in Chili in 2021.  She’s been diligently paying her RG&E bill since, “on time if not before the due date every month,” she tells News10NBC. “Everything has been going great.”

It was great until the most recent bill came. “I received a bill of $4,777.99 last month and it was devastating,” she recalls of opening the bill. “The first thing I did was call RG&E to try and figure out everything and they said that I was being estimated for 32 months and after finally getting inside to get an actual reading, this was my total,” she adds.

The outside gas meter has been read, but Moser’s electric meter is in the basement and it apparently had not been read since she moved in. “They were reading the outside meter, nobody ever knocked on my door to ask about the inside meter,” she says.

In December, Moser got a letter from RG&E saying it needed to get inside for a reading, so she called right away to set up an appointment. This bill is a result of that meter reading. “They just keep trying to set up a payment agreement with you … and I’m like, I wasn’t even aware, I’m a busy, working mom with four kids going to practices, doing everything, I’d like to see how you got to this number,” Moser says. “She told me, six months into you being estimated, you should have received a no-access letter, which I didn’t … I didn’t get anything until the end of last year,” she adds. 

Moser isn’t the only RG&E customer that has contacted News10NBC recently about surprise reconciled bills.  So, News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke spoke with RG&E’s Vice President of Customer Service to see what’s going on. 

Jennifer Lewke:  “How often do you expect a meter read to be done at a home and how quickly does your team step in if it hasn’t been to try and alert the customer that they need to do something to avoid these big surprise bills?”

Christine Alexander: “Ideally, we want an actual read every month but if we haven’t been able to get that read, at the four-month mark we start putting a message on the customer’s bill. … That communication on that bill happens until the eighth month, at which point we start sending letters specific to getting access in — and then after that, there is additional communication, three letters in total, before we start actually charging a customer for not being able to get access to the meter.” 

Jennifer Lewke:  “I’m not trying to be difficult, but I think all of what you said would have been fine if this was one year’s worth of back bills.  I probably would have walked away from the story if that was the case but that process should have started two and a half years ago with this customer and it didn’t. She was never charged a fee, she says she called to set up an appointment when she got the letter.” 

Christine Alexander: “It depends on when the customer moved in, right … for the customers that moved in during COVID, it’s a little different because we know that during that time, nobody was going into any homes.” 

Jennifer Lewke:  “Is there some audit going on that now that identifies people who haven’t had those reads in a long time in an effort to reconcile the bills? I ask because Trish (RG&E CEO) and I have had many conversations about these reconciliations since COVID and I thought you were almost through with them and yet we’re still hearing from a lot of people who getting surprise bills from time periods that are after COVID?”

Christine Alexander: “Well, again, I think we have to keep in mind we are rendering more than 5 million bills per year. You’re seeing a couple of customers who have an issue, I’m not going to say they don’t have an issue.” 

Jennifer Lewke: “It’s not just a few customers; the thing is, we keep seeing instances of this, all these years later and if nothing else, I would think it’s in RG&E’s best interest to make sure that people are getting actual meter reads a lot sooner than 32 months from when their last read was.”

Christine Alexander: “Yea, listen, I think for me, personally, we really would not like to see you any longer with these stores but at the end of the day, what we provide, we want that meter reading, we want customers to feel comfortable in the bill and that is why we provide several ways for them to get that reading to us.”    

Jennifer Lewke: “ How far back will your billers go to reconcile a bill?”

Christine Alexander: “Here’s what we look for … We look to make sure that our process was followed.  Meaning, that if a customer hasn’t had a reading for four months, we make sure they get that notice on their bill, at the eight-months mark we send a letter saying we have not been able to get access you need to contact us; there are three letters that go out.  Because we recognize there are folks that don’t read the bills so, there’s a years-worth of communication that happens trying to get the customer to either allow us access, call in the reading, go on the web and putting a picture, whatever it is. 40% of our meters in Rochester are inside.  Customers are not going to be home every time we go to their residence, we recognize that … so that is why we have these other ways of getting us the reading.”

Jennifer Lewke: “Have you reached most of the people that would find themselves in a situation like this?”

Christine Alexander: “Jennifer, here is what I would say to that, has every customer responded to our communication? I don’t know.  What I do know is, if you are seeing on your bill, an e and we have not read that meter in 4 months, you should be contacting us.”   

Jennifer Lewke:  “What is available to customers who want to be sure that what they are seeing on their bill is accurate, they don’t want to just sign up for a payment plan until they know for sure they used that power and they want to see what and how we got to that number?” 

Christine Alexader:  “We bill 5 million-plus bills a year, if a customer has an issue with a bill, the first course of action is to contact us, we will look at the bill if there are issues, concerns we will try to address it.  In some cases, the bill is correct and the customer may not agree that the bill is correct, they doesn’t mean that the bill is wrong.”

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