Central Hudson Woes Continue

Lawsuit alleges ‘deceptive and improper practices’

Less than a month after the state Public Service Commission issued a damning report on Central Hudson’s botched, $88 million upgrade of its billing system, a group of customers has filed a class-action lawsuit, alleging “unlawful deceptive acts and practices” related to the rollout. 

The suit, filed Jan. 6 in Dutchess County Supreme Court, seeks a jury trial that would determine monetary damages for the plaintiffs and other customers. 

The suit was filed by Lowey Dannenberg, a law firm with offices in New York City, on behalf of six customers in Dutchess, Orange, Greene and Ulster counties and a class of “similarly situated consumers who have been incorrectly billed” from August 2021 to the present. 

According to the suit, that class of consumers is “so numerous and geographically dispersed”  that its exact number is unknown but likely in the thousands. (In its report, the Public Service Commission said that overcharges affected more than 8,000 customers.) Other Central Hudson customers who were affected will be notified if a settlement is reached and be given an opportunity to file a claim, a Lowey Dannenberg representative said on Wednesday (Jan. 18). 

A Central Hudson representative said the company was reviewing the lawsuit but had no further comment. 

Since its rollout on Sept. 1, 2021, the utility’s billing system has been riddled with errors. One plaintiff in the lawsuit who lives in Wappingers Falls said that he didn’t receive a bill for four months but, without warning, in November was charged nearly $4,500. He has yet to be provided with justification for the “onslaught of bills” or an accurate reading of his meter, the suit alleges.

Another plaintiff, a Kingston man, said he received a bill for $1,113 for mid-January to mid-February 2022, more than double what the man had averaged for previous 30-day periods. Further, the man shut off the power in his residence in March but was still billed $525, according to the lawsuit.

The suit also takes the utility to task for statements made since the billing system rollout, including comments that attributed high energy prices to cold weather, increased global demand and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Instead, citing the report by the Public Service Commission (PSC), the lawsuit attributes the widespread billing issues to Central Hudson’s “hasty” release of a billing system that the utility “knew was riddled with bugs and defects.” The company “did not bother to adequately train and educate its own staff,” leaving employees unprepared to face angry customers, it said. 

In addition, the suit alleges “a slew of other deceptive and improper practices,” including failure to read consumers’ meters, unlawfully withdrawing funds from consumers’ bank accounts and billing consumers “exorbitant amounts” for electricity and gas they did not receive.

Following its six-month investigation, the PSC, which regulates the electric, gas, water and telecommunication industries in New York state, is considering a civil penalty. It also plans to investigate Central Hudson’s expenditures for the billing system. 

Jonathan Jacobson, a Democrat whose district in the state Assembly includes Beacon, this month introduced a bill that would regulate when utilities can render estimated bills, a practice that Central Hudson employed when its new system erroneously stopped creating bills for prolonged periods. 

The legislation would permit estimated bills under certain circumstances. But it would require utility companies and municipalities to submit to the PSC a model procedure for the calculation of estimated bills that incorporates best practices and technology and accounts for any barriers to the use of actual meter readings.

If adopted, the law would protect consumers from excessive fluctuations in their month-to-month bills, Jacobson wrote in a memo in support of his legislation. He also suggested that the growing availability of remote meter-reading technology should cut down on the need for estimated bills.

7 thoughts on “Central Hudson Woes Continue

  1. A friend experienced the same as above. She did not receive a bill for months and then received one for $1,500. It was tempting to say, “Takes two to tango.”

  2. We live in Beacon. We’re on the budget plan and just received our year-end adjustment for $1,700. Six of our 12 bills were estimated. [via Facebook]

  3. Soon after I paid off a huge bill, I received an email stating I have another bill waiting. I am afraid to open it. Something needs to be done: I can’t afford this. [via Facebook]

  4. I got a year-end budget-plan adjustment for $1,300. The monthly payment for our house was $350 in 2022; it will now rise to $500, or $6,000 for 2023. [via Facebook]

  5. I just received an invoice for $0.00 (after receiving a bill, due the same day, for the more-or-less expected amount). Will they take a check? [via Instagram]

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