Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, NYS Senator Michelle Hinchey and Assemblymember Kevin Cahill collected over 45 public comments at the hearing into Central Hudson’s customer information system implementation and resulting billing errors
KINGSTON, N.Y. - Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, NYS Senator Michelle Hinchey and Assemblymember Kevin Cahill held a public hearing on Tuesday, May 3rd, at Kingston High School which drew over a hundred attendees and more than 45 public comments. Testimony provided at the public hearing will be submitted to the Department of Public Service (DPS) investigation into Central Hudson’s customer information system implementation and resulting billing errors.
“Central Hudson, through their failures to communicate and to execute, has broken a fundamental trust, and it is on them to restore that trust. But the only way we can work towards that is with transparency and accountability and people sharing their stories,” Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said. “I really appreciate everyone’s willingness to give up their time, to document what’s happening with detail and humanity, by telling personal stories about the pressure and the stress that Central Hudson’s billing practices are putting on so many people.”
“Our public hearing confirmed what we know to be true: that our community members are bearing the unacceptable burden of Central Hudson’s inaccurate billing practices and egregious price spikes,” said Senator Michelle Hinchey. “I want to thank everyone who made their voice heard at our hearing and encourage all impacted individuals to share their experiences with DPS as part of their investigation into Central Hudson. My office will continue our work to hold Central Hudson accountable, fighting billing errors directly through our constituent services, and taking legislative action to make sure that these failures never happen again.”
“Tonight's forum will add to our extensive work in representing outraged and abused utility customers in our communities. The breadth of issues our neighbors are experiencing with Fortis/Central Hudson is unacceptable. In addition to collaborating with the Public Utility Law Project and colleagues in the State Assembly to hold a regional forum and this community gathering, my office distributed a survey to every local resident, yielding over 600 additional individual complaints regarding billing, reliability, unresponsiveness and costs associated with the company. That information, in conjunction with the statements included in this gathering, will provide the Public Service Commission ample evidence for their investigation and ensure that the utility is held accountable. My office will continue to work with County Executive Ryan, Senator Hinchey, other area representatives and the Public Utility Law Project to allow consumer voices to be heard,” said Assemblymember Kevin A. Cahill (D-Ulster, Dutchess).
“Even before Ulster’s residents were blindsided by the ‘bill surge,’” Central Hudson was failing at its duty to provide customers with regular and accurate bills, which resulted in unjust and unreasonable rates being charged and consumer harm. Worse, rather than getting out ahead of its myriad issues, the company has shifted the burden to its customers to correct the glitches and mistakes of their inoperable billing system,” said Laurie Wheelock, Deputy Executive Director of the Public Utility Law Project of New York. “Tonight’s forum shined a light on how these unfair and unacceptable business practices harmed many thousands of the company’s customers. PULP thanks County Executive Ryan, Senator Hinchey, and Assemblymember Cahill for the opportunity to testify at this important hearing and look forward to continued partnership on the matter with their offices.”
Public Service Law §71 allows for the filing of complaints regarding gas and electric service, including quality, price, and the duration of a disruption in service. Under this Section, the Commission investigates complaints from the chief executive officer in which a person or corporation is authorized to manufacture, sell, transmit, or supply electricity or gas for heat, light, or power. Under this section of law, County Executive Ryan used his legal authority to call for an investigation. His March 3rd letter cited Ulster County residents’ concerns ranging from not receiving bills for months, to extremely over-estimated bills, to large automatic withdrawals from customers’ accounts without notice. Since September, at least 11,000 Central Hudson electricity customers have experienced billing problems.
At the State level, Senator Hinchey has called on the Public Service Commission to investigate both Central Hudson’s estimated billing procedure and the utility’s skyrocketing bill hikes and authored legislation (S7579A) to prohibit every utility company in New York from using an estimated billing system.
Central Hudson customers who have been impacted by the implementation of Central Hudson’s new billing system, and who have not been able to resolve their issues with the utility, may submit public comment on the DPS investigation through the online form. It is anticipated that the DPS investigation will go on for several months.
For additional assistance with resolving individual matters, individuals can file a formal complaint with DPS online or by calling 800-342-3377.
Ulster County residents who do not have computer access or a valid email address and could not make it to the public hearing may continue to call 845-443-8888 for assistance with submitting public comment on the investigation.