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$4.2M was returned to New Yorkers through customer protections issues in 2022

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  • Staff Report 

One state agency saved an estimated $4.2 million across 68,000 households, according to new information from Governor Kathy Hochul’s office.

The Office of Consumer Services at the New York State Department of Public Service helped 68,000 households with consumer protection issues in 2022, resulting in almost $4.2 million being returned to consumers. The Department’s efforts have aimed to hold companies accountable and bolster consumer protections.

The Office of Consumer Services monitors complaints against all utilities operating in New York to ensure effective customer service compliance with laws, rules, regulations, and policies. Every month, the Office releases a detailed overview of complaint activity and utility responsiveness, which benefits both consumers and utility companies.

In addition to monitoring utilities, the Office also tracks complaints against competitive energy service companies (ESCOs) in the state.

Recently, the Department expanded its investigation into New York State Electric & Gas Corp. (NYSEG) and Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. (RG&E) regarding potential mismanagement of their utilities’ billing systems and protocols. This move came after a spike in complaints from customers, with over 4,700 complaints received in 2022, 60% more than the two previous years combined. These complaints ranged from incorrect bills being sent to consumers to extremely delayed bills.

As a result of this increase in complaints, the Department reviewed and investigated a change to the companies’ customer information and billing system. To ensure further consumer protections, the Department will begin regulating energy brokers in 2023.

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The Governor has also proposed $200 million in relief for utility bills for up to 800,000 New York households earning under $75,000 a year, as well as $200 million for the EmPower Plus program to help 20,000 low-income families retrofit their homes with energy-efficient appliances and switch to clean, efficient electric alternatives. The EmPower Plus program will combine weatherization and electrification measures with affordability protections to cut energy use, improve home comfort, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Department provides consumers with comprehensive, clear educational materials and guidance to assist them in reducing their energy bills, preparing for extreme weather, and understanding their rights under New York’s utility consumer protection laws, the Home Energy Fair Practices Act (HEFPA). The Department also informs and educates consumers through live outreach presentations, social media campaigns, and other resources.

Consumers looking to file complaints or receive more information about consumer services can visit the Department’s website or call the helpline at 800-342-3377, Monday through Friday, 8:30am-4:00pm. They may also contact the Department in writing at the NYS Dept. of Public Service Office of Consumer Services, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12223-1350.

Governor Hochul stated that hard-working New Yorkers deserve compensation when overcharged or inaccurately billed by their utility companies. She expressed pride in the administration’s efforts to respond to thousands of utility complaints and return millions of dollars to New York households, while holding companies accountable and strengthening consumer protections.

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