Brooklyn Boro

Meter mix-ups shock Con Ed customers

Inexplicable charges and sudden swings in energy usage can provide clues that the billing is for the wrong consumers.

July 1, 2024 Samantha Maldonado, THE CITY
A Brooklyn Con Edison customer says the utility company mistakenly charged him for his tenant’s electricity usage, June 17, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Jacob Mnookin
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Mix-ups of electric meters have some Con Ed customers paying the bills for their neighbors’ power usage — and waiting for months to get their situations resolved.

Nicole, a writer in Astoria, Queens, is in such a pickle herself.

Anticipating higher bills because her apartment is powered fully by electricity, Nicole (who asked that only her first name be published) was hyper-vigilant about tracking her household’s real-time electricity usage online — able to do so because of the smart meter installed in her building.

But something was fishy: she noticed even when her family left town, the usage seemed to be similar to when they were still there.

Then, in January 2023, about a year after she’d moved in, her neighbors went away for a week.

“My usage dropped to nothing,” Nicole said. “I was like, Bingo!”

Two months later, a technician from Con Ed came to her home and confirmed the meter mix-up.

It’s hard to know how many customers are affected by mistakes like these.

Con Ed has installed almost five million smart meters that measure and record electricity use in real time and send the data to the company. According to Con Ed, an accidental flip-flop is a rare problem and results from human error during building upgrades or new construction. Con Ed customers have submitted to the state Department of Public Service about 200 complaints about subcontractor mix-ups of smart meter installations since 2022.

“Con Edison responds to customers and works with them to resolve any billing problems or questions as quickly as possible,” said Con Ed spokesperson Allan Drury in a statement. “We regret any inconvenience to a customer.”

Laurie Wheelock, executive director of the Public Utility Law Project, says she hears from customers about meter mix-ups on occasion and her organization helps them troubleshoot.

Wheelock said customers suspecting faulty billing should contact Con Ed first, and then file a complaint with the DPS in the event of an unsatisfactory resolution.

“Having the department involved is kind of that regulatory check,” she said.

Nicole contacted DPS because she hasn’t still gotten her situation rectified, more than a year later. She continues to call Con Ed once a month and keeps paying the bill, despite knowing it is not an accurate reflection of what she owes.

“It’s a financial planning issue,” she said. “I don’t know if I’m going to end up owing or being owed. We’re looking at over two years now, a year and a half of inaccurate billing. That could be a huge bill for us.”

If customers underpay, they square up and don’t have to pay interest. If customers overpay, they get money back with interest, Con Ed said.

Almost a Year

Nicole isn’t the only one dealing with a lack of speedy resolution, despite going through proper channels.

It’s also been almost a year of incorrect billing thanks to a mix-up for Jacob Mnookin, who owns a two-family house in Brooklyn’s Ditmas Park. He realized last July that he was getting charged for his tenants’ electricity after he installed solar equipment at his home.

He thought it’d be easy to deal with: “I’ll tell them what the situation is and, you know, they’ll send me a check.”

But that was not the case: he said it took two months for a technician to come to check onin it, and was told he’d get a resolution in six to eight weeks. Despite regular back-and-forths with the utility company, the billing and meter are still not fixed. He filed a complaint with DPS, too.

“Literally every time I speak to anybody there [at Con Ed], I’m starting over,” Mnookin said.

In a statement, DPS spokesperson James Denn said the Public Service Commission is aware of Con Ed’s slowness responding to customer inquiries.

“The Commission continues to hold utilities accountable and is working diligently to resolve all complaints,” he said.

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