News10NBC Investigates: Hilton man gets $10K RG&E bill
HILTON, N.Y. – Over the past few years, News10NBC has reported on a multitude of billing and customer service issues at RG&E. And while the utility says it’s making great progress in turning things around, some customers are still getting stuck in frustrating situations with giant bills they don’t believe are accurate.
Michael Forest of Hilton is basically RG&E’s ideal customer.
“I’ve never been late, always pay, always send in my meter reads,” he tells News10NBC.
He was on a budget plan until October.
“I paid off my budget billing and actually had a $246.57 credit,” he says.
Everything was good – until it wasn’t.
“I gave them a meter read and then a week later they put my smart meters in,” he says. “Then a couple weeks later, I got a bill for $8,698. There is no way. There is nothing I could possibly use. Everything since I bought the house three years ago has been upgraded: all energy-efficient appliances, LED lighting.”
So, Forest called RG&E right away.
“They said they were going to put my account on hold, they were going to do an investigation,” he recalls.
So, Forest waited.
“Then, on the 29th of January, they gave me a bill for $9,038.71 and no explanation, so, obviously, I called them that night again, too.”
Still, no answers – and then another bill arrived. This time? It was for $10,245.67.
So, what on earth is going on here? How can Michael Forest’s account go from a $250 credit to a more than $10,000 bill in a matter of three months?
Forest brought in an electrician to ensure that his 200-year-old home didn’t have any major leaks.
“He looked at my bills and looked at everything else in my house that I’m running and he told me flat out, even if I open up my garage doors and left my heat on at 100 degrees in 10-degree weather and turned every light on, everything I own, there’s no way possible I could have used all that,” he says.
News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke reached out to leadership at RG&E about Forest’s bill. Within hours, he got a call from a customer service manager who claimed there hadn’t been an actual meter read at his house in years and this was a reconciliation of his bill.
Forest remembers RG&E meter readers coming into his home at least twice in the last three years and says he’s called in his readings a number of times but he just wanted the situation to be settled. So, after some haggling, he got his $10,000 bill reduced to $1,800 and paid it.
A spokeswoman for RG&E tells News10NBC, “The customer’s smart meter installation was not the issue in this case. In fact, smart meter technology is designed to eliminate estimated meter reads and bill customers based on their actual usage, and this was an issue with estimated reads. Our customer service team has worked with Mr. Forest to resolve the issue. RG&E remains committed to working with our customers to address their needs and continues to encourage the expansion of smart meters for all customers to provide actual meter reads.”
If you have an issue/complaint about RG&E:
RG&E: 1-800-743-2110 (Monday-Friday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.)
NYS Public Service Commission (state regulator): File a complaint here or call 1-800-342-3377 (Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
News10NBC: Email Jlewke@whec.com with full name, address and account number