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Customers surprised by large, delayed bills
Kimberly Sauer says she was home for less than half of last month and her smart thermometer showed that the heat operated for about 13 minutes each day during what was an unusually warm December.
So, the Beacon resident was shocked when Central Hudson billed her for 10 times the amount of gas she uses on average throughout the year.
“December is, allegedly, an actual reading, but I don’t see how that is possible,” said Sauer on Monday (Jan. 3).
She is not the only Central Hudson customer in disbelief.
The company has been facing a barrage of emails and phone calls over the last two months from its customers, who number 5,197 in Philipstown and 6,499 in Beacon. Their focus is a range of billing issues — from off-the-chart and smaller-than-usual charges for electric and gas usage to having months go by without receiving a bill.
Joe Jenkins, a representative for the utility, said glitches arose when the utility recently replaced a 1980s-era computer system with new software to adapt to a “cleaner energy grid” in which more customers are using energy generated from solar panels and third-party suppliers. The update took place around September.
About 4,000 of Central Hudson’s approximately 308,000 customers have been affected, he said. To handle their complaints, the company has “more than doubled” its customer service staff and expanded hours of operation to reduce the amount of time people spend on hold, said Jenkins. It also is using mail, email, social media and automated phone calls to communicate with customers, he said.
“Our team of IT [information technology] professionals and our software consultants are working every day to identify and implement system fixes,” said Jenkins on Tuesday (Jan. 4). “We expect to have the majority of these fixes in place early this year.”
When that happens, Craig Wolf, who owns both a rental property and a residence in Beacon, is expecting a big bill.
In November, he realized that Central Hudson had not sent a bill for the rental property since July, and began worrying that he simply had not seen the utility’s statements. Bills were sent to his primary residence, but for much less than the normal $200 to $300 in charges. November’s bill totaled $18.77, said Wolf, who is bracing for a large bill at some point.
“We’re certainly going to get a [corrected] bill someday, and it’s going to be a whopper,” he said.