Governor Hochul Announces New York State Returned Nearly $9.7 Million to Consumers in 2023

In honor of National Consumer Protection Week, Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that the New York State Department of Public Service's Office of Consumer Services (the personnel arm of the Public Service Commission) and the Division of New York Department of State Consumer Protection assisted 276,000 New York households with a variety of consumer protection issues, which will return nearly $9.7 million to consumers in 2023.

The Public Service Commission conducted nearly 25,000 investigations, resulting in the Department returning nearly $7 million to consumers. The Division of Consumer Protection handled 26,137 consumer complaints and inquiries, returning nearly $2.7 million to consumers. This year, National Consumer Protection Week will take place March 3-9.

"We are putting money back in the pockets of hard-working New Yorkers who have been scammed or overcharged on their utilities." Governor Hochul said. "My administration has made a tremendous effort to respond to thousands of complaints and return millions of dollars to New York households. We will continue to work to protect consumers and hold dishonest companies accountable."

The Department of Public Utilities' Office of Consumer Services monitors the number and types of complaints received against all utilities operating in New York State to ensure that utilities meet their obligation to provide effective customer service. in accordance with laws, rules, regulations and policies. Each month, the Office of Consumer Services releases detailed information general description of complaint activity and utility responsiveness that is informative to both consumers and utility companies.

The mission of the New York State Division of Consumer Protection is to assist, protect, educate and represent consumers in an ever-changing economy. The Division of Consumer Protection works hard to help aggrieved people in the marketplace through its complaint mediation efforts, as well as educating the public about scams in the marketplace and advocating for consumer interests before legislative bodies and regulators.

The top five categories of consumer complaints received by the Division of Consumer Protection in 2023:

  • Refunds/Store Policy: Complaints regarding refunds and store policies, including return policies, restocking fees, and refunds for damaged products.
  • Orders/Deliveries: Complaints related to the order and delivery of purchased goods, including missing items, incorrect items received, late or delayed delivery, or items never shipped.
  • Merchandise/Product: Claims related to merchandise or products that did not meet consumer expectations.
  • Credit Cards: Complaints related to erroneous charges, billing, card benefits and illegal surcharges.
  • Home Improvement: Complaints related to home improvements, repair services and contractors.

For example, a consumer in Columbia County purchased a set of new kitchen appliances for more than $5,000, but immediately after installation, the oven did not function properly. After multiple repair attempts, the consumer was still having issues with the appliances, so he contacted the retailer to return them for a refund. The retailer initially refused to accept them and said they would only replace them with new units, but the consumer was not willing to do so. The retailer then said he would return them, but they would have to apply a restocking fee since the appliances were already used. The consumer then contacted DCP for assistance. DCP contacted the appliance retailer and, through mediation, was able to arrange a full refund for the consumer.

Additionally, a consumer in Staten Island purchased kitchen cabinets totaling more than $13,000 from a large retailer that showed signs of being defective. The cabinet manufacturer inspected them and said they would send out a replacement order. After a year and numerous unanswered phone calls, the consumer had only received two replacement doors. DCP contacted the retailer and manufacturer and shortly thereafter the entire set of cabinets were replaced.

The Federal Trade Commission conducts several public events during National Consumer Protection Week that promote consumer protection awareness. All events are free and can be found. here.

PSC President Rory M. Christian said: “The PSC and the Department remain focused on resolving utility complaints for the state's consumers and ensuring that utilities comply with consumer protection regulations. “This approach allows us to advance our historic mission and activities in the public interest and helps ensure that utilities provide refunds to consumers when they make a mistake.”

Secretary Robert J. Rodríguez said: “Our top priority is protecting consumers from fraudulent business practices, defective products, and dangerous goods and services. “The Department of State’s Consumer Protection Division is proud to help people by educating them on how to protect themselves from scammers and providing businesses with guidance on the laws to create a fair market for all New Yorkers.”

The Department of Public Utilities' Office of Consumer Services also monitors complaints against competitive energy services companies (ESCOs) operating in New York and against distributed energy resources (DERs), a crucial element of the state's transition to electricity. clean energy. In terms of additional consumer protection, the Department also began regulating energy brokers in 2023 and is continually tasked with ensuring that regulated entities meet or exceed rules and regulations with respect to the provision of customer service.

In addition to its ongoing investigation into the billing of Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp., the Department expanded its investigation into New York State Electric & Gas Corp. (NYSEG) and Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. (RG&E) regarding a possible poor management of billing for your public services. systems and protocols.

As part of the investigation, the Department's Consumer Advocate hosted a series of public forums in the affected areas in January and February 2023 to hear first-hand about consumer concerns. Problems with NYSEG and RG&E's billing systems became apparent when the Department began to see a significant increase in the number of customer complaints.

As a direct result of the unprecedented number of consumer complaints, Department staff began a review and investigation related to a change in the companies' billing and customer information system. Complaints received by the Department range from sending incorrect bills to consumers, sending bills extremely late, sending multiple conflicting bills, or difficulties billing renewable energy customers.

In 2023, the number of consumer complaints against Central Hudson, NYSEG, and RG&E skyrocketed to more than 1,742, 4,260, and 2,293 complaints, respectively; four times more than the number of complaints received in 2021 and 14 percent more than 2022.

In February, the PSC adopted a $200 million New York State energy bill credit to be administered by electric and gas utilities, which is funded in the 2023-2024 budget to offset increases in prices of energy products and requests for increases in delivery rates from utility companies. and pressures on affordability in general. The energy bill credit is a unique credit that will provide energy bill relief to more than seven million electric and gas utility customers.

As part of its consumer assistance educational programs, the Department provides consumers with comprehensive and clear guidance and educational materials to help them reduce their energy bills, prepare for the extreme cold and heat of winter and summer, and learn and exercise your rights under New York national law. -Leading utility consumer protection laws, the Home Fair Energy Practices Act (HEFPA). Department staff also inform, educate and empower consumers through live statewide presentations, valuable consumer education resources, and timely consumer information campaigns on social media.

To file consumer complaints against a utility company or to receive more information about consumer services, go to dps.ny.gov/complaints or call the Department's help line at 800-342-3377, Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 4:00 pm You can contact the Department in writing at the Department of Public Service Consumer Services Office of New York State, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12223-1350.

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection serves to educate, assist and empower the State's consumers. Consumers may file a complaint with the Division of Consumer Protection at dos.ny.gov/file-consumer-complaint.

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