News10NBC Investigates: New law limits utility back-billing

NYS law limits back-billing by utilities

The News10NBC Team details breaking News, Traffic and Weather.

New York State is trying to rein in utilities that wait months to properly bill their customers. Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill into law this week that prohibits back-billing if the bill is issued more than three months late and requires utilities to provide 13 months of previous usage data at a customer’s address, on every bill. 

The bill is of particular importance to RG&E customers. As News10NBC has been reporting, thousands of customers have been walloped with big bills over the last few years as the utility got back to doing actual meter readings after months, if not years, of billing customers based on estimates.

Just last week, News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke reported on a family from Greece who had nearly $13,000 debited from their account by RG&E. The utility told them it hadn’t done an actual meter reading at their home in more than four years, despite their meters being outside, and the bill was reconciled from the estimated payments they had been making monthly.     

State lawmakers in the Mid-Hudson region have been hearing from customers of Central Hudson with similar issues for the past few years and wrote a bill to try and address it.   

Governor Hochul signed that bill on Tuesday.  It prohibits all utilities from back-billing, if the bill is issued more than three months late. 

It also requires all utilities include the previous 13 months of usage charges at a customer’s address with each bill issued.  The provision is particularly impactful for renters, who previously haven’t had the opportunity to know what former tenants have paid in the same apartment. 

Assemblymember Jonathan Jacobson sponsored the bill. “In the Hudson Valley, Central Hudson customers, like you have in the Rochester area, have been experiencing non-billing, late billing, abusive estimated billing and it’s just been a nightmare what’s going on,” he tells News10NBC. “I think that this bill will go a long way because the utilities, for the first time, will have a really strong financial incentive to get the bill out the door and for the first time, consumers will be able to compare their bill with the same period of a year ago to see if it is in the ballpark.”

There’s still a process the law has to go through, so it’ll likely be at least six months until implementation, but Jacobson says, it’s a good start. “Consumers will get a little justice, a little transparency, a little more timely billing, and so they can go on with their lives and worry about other things as opposed to just their utility bill.”

RG&E issued the following statement:

“RG&E and NYSEG are committed to providing our customers with the most accurate information in their bills. The roll out of smart meters is currently underway with more than 265,000 installed across the state. This new technology will provide customers in upstate New York with an increased level of accuracy and also offer customers convenience, control and expanded choice in understanding and managing their energy use. The Companies have taken significant steps in customer service improvements and will continue to work to provide the best customer service experience possible.”