NYSEG Turned Off My Heat During Wintertime, Breaking the LawPosted: April 24, 2014
by Lulu O’Platt
This article is for others who, like me, found their NYSEG bill so high they couldn’t quite make those payments in full each month this winter, and were shut off from service. This winter NYSEG shut off my service and when I called the New York State Public Service Commission’s hotline I was stunned to learn NYSEG broke the law. The employees at the New York State Public Service Commission asked if I wanted to file a complaint against NYSEG, and I did.
There are an unknown number of times others have suffered from the illegal shut off of heat and electric service. If you have, or if you know others who have, been the victim of NYSEG’s disregard for New York State law, please file a complaint with the New York State Public Service Commission. Spread the word.
When you phone the NYS Public Service Commission they will ask you about the circumstances surrounding the shut off. Be honest. They will ask you to phone NYSEG and try to work out a payment plan or make arrangements. Then call the NYS Public Service Commission again and tell them if the problem is resolved or not. If NYSEG did not grant you an additional 15 days to make a payment, call the commission back. The commission will contact NYSEG on your behalf. You will see results.
In my case I knew I was not going to be able to pay my monthly bill because of unforeseen circumstances. I needed an additional three days to pay the bill. I phoned NYSEG the week before to be “pro-active” and explain. It did not go well. NYSEG told me they were warning me if I did not pay on time I would be shut off. Even though I explained that I was calling so that I would not be shut off, they told me it did not matter. On a cold Monday morning in January I woke to no heat, no electric and no phone service because my phone service was through Time-Warner and relied on electricity.
I took every dollar and coin I had to NYSEG and begged them to please turn my service back on because it was winter, and my pipes might freeze or if I needed to call 9-1-1 the phone needed electricity. The “customer service” person told me my pipes wouldn’t freeze because it wasn’t cold enough outside, and I could use my cell phone. I told her I don’t own a cell phone. (The average temperature this January was below 30 degrees by the way.) After pleading with her for a few minutes she went to speak to her supervisor and when she came back she took the last of my money, more than 50% of the bill, and told me someone would be at the house to turn the service back on within 24 hours, but I had to leave the circuit breakers off. That said, the shut-off caused me to lose time at work.
It was a co-worker who urged me to call the NYS Public Service Commission (NYSPSC) and find out what my rights were, so I did. Imagine my shock when I was told NYSEG had broken the law when they shut my services off. The NYS PSC employee advised I had done the right thing by phoning NYSEG prior to the shut-off date and trying to work out the problem. Had I phoned the commission the week before they would have advised me to phone NYSEG, and after doing so, the commission would have contacted NYSEG and arranged for an additional FIFTEEN days to pay the bill. I wanted three days, and the commission would have arranged for FIFTEEN days. Remember that.
There are special circumstances that apply during the winter months. The commission does not eliminate your bill, but a utility company is supposed to comply with NYS laws so that people do not lose their heat particularly between November 1 and April 15. Remember that.
The next morning I waited, and waited. Minutes before the legally required restoration of service within 24 hours was up someone came to turn the service on again. As soon as the electric was restored my phone rang. It was a call from NYSEG’s Kirkwood location. A NYSEG employee was following up on my complaint filed with the New York State Public Service Commission. Abrasive, she was irritated because had been phoning me for nearly three hours that morning and I had not answered. When I told her my telephone was shut off by NYSEG when they turned off my electric service she had a lot to say about my ability to pay Time Warner but not NYSEG. Actually she had a lot of opinions about me, my finances, my abilities to pay bills, and previous billing cycles. She was one of the nastiest people I’ve been forced to listen to in quite a long time. She wanted to know why I had phoned the New York State Public Services Commission and when I explained how all of this could have been avoided if they had just let me have 72 hours to pay my final bill, and that the NYS Public Services Commission agreed, she was enraged. She thought the commission was all wrong. (**Note: The commission was sorry she has a problem with New York State Law.)
There is something odd about a woman who works for NYSEG “Appeals” when her true calling is intimidating through abusive language and tone. Once I had learned NYSEG had broken New York State law by shutting my service off, causing me to lose time from work, during January, when I had tried to work with them, I knew I could speak up. The woman is employed by NYSEG and evidently paid to be cruel, judgmental and verbally abusive to customers who file a complaint about NYSEG’s illegal disconnection activities. Remember that.
NYSEG is turning services off more frequently than they are legally allowed. Many of us trust NYSEG to respect and abide by New York State law. Telephone the New York State Public Service Commission. Talk to the employees at the NYS Public Service Commission. If you are a reasonable person, and if for any reason your NYSEG service should not be interrupted, the NYS PSC employees will intervene on your behalf with the NYSEG monopoly in our region. If you have a household with a person with a medical condition, an elderly person, or a special situation such as a family member with a disability, there are good people at the NYS PSC waiting to help you maintain utility service (see below).
The next time NYSEG applies for an increase in rates, the number of complaints filed against them for illegally shutting off customer heat and electricity will not bode well for their application. Remember that.
Do you know anyone who: lost their heat between November and April 15, with a medical condition, or a disability, or someone elderly who lost service this winter, or who was shut off on a Friday? This is against the law. Tell the NYS Public Service Commission now. File complaints now. Remember that.
Shutoffs are only permitted between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday, excluding holidays, the day before a holiday and the two-week period encompassing Christmas and New Year’s Day.
If you are unable to make an arrangement, call the PSC’s toll-free Emergency HOTLINE at 1-800-342-3355for assistance. Important information from, “Consumer Guide: Your Rights as a Residential Gas, Electric or Steam Customer under HEFPA” as found on the New York State Public Service Commission website (www.dps.ny.gov)