News10NBC Investigates: RG&E halts appliance recycling program after no-shows and bounced checks
UPDATE (Friday 5pm): RG&E is making good on its promise to make things right for customers who were impacted by the sudden suspension of its appliance recycling program. The utility has provided a list of alternative options for recycling and promised customers a $200 check to cover the time and expense of arranging for pick-up and disposal on their own. Those who choose not partake in appliance removal services, will still get the $50 incentive if they were previously signed up for the program through RG&E and had their appointments cancelled. Eligible customers should email: email@example.com and include your name and contact information so the payment can be issued.
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – RG&E has had an appliance recycling program for more than a decade but it’s recently run into major issues. While the problems appear to be the result of an outside vendor, customers still want the utility to step-up and make things right.
Dave Tomer and his wife recently got a new refrigerator. The store they brought it from was willing to haul the old one away for a small fee, but the Tomer’s remembered seeing an ad from RG&E about a recycling program. Customers could get their old fridge or freezer picked up for free and responsibly recycled. They would also get $50 for participating.
“I called, I think the end of June and the earliest they could schedule me was the beginning of August,” Tomer tells News10NBC. So, he moved the old refrigerator to his garage and waited. The pick-up date came and went but no one showed up and no one called. So, Tomer called the 800 number provided again.
“I felt like I was just bouncing around and nobody was really taking responsibility for making it happen or letting me know when it didn’t,” he says.
Eventually Tomer got through to someone who set another pick-up date.
“About a week or two after that, I got another notice, a voice message this one, I remember, saying that one was cancelled again” he recalls.
Then, he got an email from RG&E letting him know that due to unforeseen circumstances with the third party administrator, the recycling program has been temporarily closed and RG&E would be unable to pick up or recycle appliances.
A member of the First Baptist Church of Rochester was able to get her old refrigerator picked up before the program was suspended.
“She thought, oh, this is great, I’ll do the right thing for the environment by donating the refrigerator and then I’ll get the money and I’ll give it to the church,” says Dr. Richard Wien, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees.
When the check came, she signed it over to the church.
“Low and behold, Chase Bank came back to us and said you’re not going to get the $50 and you’re going to owe us some money,” Dr. Wien says.
The check bounced; the reason given was insufficient funds. News10NBC has heard from others who participated in the program over the summer and recently received checks that bounced too.
“There’s some elementary kind of administration, organizational structure that’s missing here because some of this stuff isn’t rocket science,” says Dr. Wien. “It’s the same situation to me as when they have people with a billing problem, they can’t seem to fix it. Here, okay, it wasn’t their fault directly but they certainly have a responsibility to fix it as far as I’m concerned,” Tomer adds.
A spokeswoman for RG&E tells News10NBC the utility contracted with a third-party program administrator, ARCA Recycling, in 2019 and due to recent “unforeseen circumstances, the program was temporarily shut down as soon as it was determined that the third-party program administrator could not fulfill its agreement. RG&E says it’s looking into alternate options to fulfill its commitment to customers who were already scheduled for pick-ups and once it has a solution, it will communicate the next steps to those customers.
ARCA Recycling is having similar issues with other utility contracts across the country. News10NBC reached out to the company, our calls were not returned.
When asked about whether RG&E would cover the cost of any bounced checks fees, the utility says, “Affected customers should email firstname.lastname@example.org.”