RG&E/NYSEG to begin charging late fees and conducting shut-offs again
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – After a year-long News10NBC Investigation that exposed major customer service and billing issues at RG&E and NYSEG, the utilities will soon begin charging late fees and conducting shut-offs again. RG&E suspended late fees last fall while it worked to rectify the issues and says its now time to get back to business as usual.
If you’re behind on your utility bill, late fees will begin again this month. If you’re more than 60 days late, you run the risk of a shut-off. At the very least, the utility says you’ve got to call and explain your situation, “We take some information from them and we’ll negotiate a payment agreement that works for them based on their financial situation,” Terri Vanbrooker, the Vice President of Customer Service for RG&E and NYSEG said. “Customers need to pay their monthly bills but we can take whatever is past due and spread it over time for them and the really great thing is once they do that, the late payment fees that are getting reinstated this week, they don’t accrue on those deferred balances.”
Of course, to set-up a payment plan you need to be able to actually get through on the utilities customer service lines, a chore News10NBC has had to help hundreds of customers with over the course of the last several months.
Jennifer Lewke News10NBC: If there are people who somehow can’t get through to you or are running into billing issues and are just not sure the bill is correct, what is your advice for them?
Terri VanBrooker: Well, we’ve added over 200 call takers in the last few months so, we do think that people are having a much easier time getting through to us and if they do feel like they have a concern or question and they want to talk to us about it, we do encourage them to reach out…I hope that you’ve seen that you’ve been getting fewer of those [calls for help] because we’ve done a lot of work operationally to stabilize performance, our meter reading is back on track, our manual bill reviews are down to pre-COVID level, customers are seeing bills based on actual reads based instead of estimates so, that’s all gotten better.
The utilities say they are trying to reassure customers by doing more than they have in the past before a shutoff, “Were doing pre-screenings over and above what we normally do, we’re looking to make sure the customers had the actual read, that there isn’t a delayed billing situation that would be impacting a customer,” VanBrooker says.
Lewke: And I just have to ask one more time all things considered, you believe the company is stable enough to ensure that what customers are seeing on their bills is accurate?
VanBrooker: I do feel very confident in that, we’ve worked very hard at that and I also feel we have an obligation from a customer perspective to make sure that all customers are taking care of their accounts because the customers who do pay their bills, bare the cost of those who don’t pay their bills.
VanBrooker says only if customers take no action after receiving multiple bills, calls, and notices will they face disconnection. While only a small percentage of the Companies’ customers statewide have a debt that is more than 60 days past due, the amount of this debt totals more than $180 million across NYSEG and RG&E.
For more information: Help With Bill – RGE
Customers looking for help should contact customer service reps:
NYSEG: call us at 888.315.1755
RG&E: call us at 877.266.3492