Attorney General James Takes Action to Protect Consumers from Unexpectedly High Energy Bills
Numerous Con Edison Customers Reported Sharp and Unexpected Increases on Their Utility Bills
AG James Requests Explanation from Con Edison Over High Energy Bills
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James took action to protect consumers from unexpectedly high energy bills from Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. (Con Edison). In a letter to Con Edison, Attorney General James requested an explanation for the unexpected spike in utility bills last month that affected thousands of New Yorkers primarily in New York City and Westchester County. Many New York City consumers filed complaints with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) saying that their Con Edison bills for January 2022 were significantly higher than they were in the prior billing cycle, with some consumers reporting bills that were as much as three times greater even though their consumption remained the same.
“Hardworking New Yorkers shouldn’t have to make sacrifices to keep the lights on or to stay warm during the coldest months of the winter,” said Attorney General James. “My office is calling on Con Edison to explain the unexpected increases in last month’s bills that affected thousands of New Yorkers. We are also demanding that the company communicate rate increases early on so New Yorkers know what to expect when they open their energy bill. Utility companies have a responsibility to make sure consumers’ bills are fair and accurate, and my office is determined to hold them to that standard.”
Con Edison supplies energy for millions of New Yorkers. In some cases reported to OAG, the total amount due on some bills was two or even three times higher than in the previous billing cycle. One customer saw their bill jump from around $200 in December to more than $400 in January. Consumers have stated that the sudden change on their bills could not be explained by increased energy use alone. Consumers have also stated that they received no advance warning from Con Edison about the rate increase. For many consumers, this rate increase is so large that they may have difficulty meeting their monthly expenses. One consumer wrote, “We are a working family with an infant living in an affordable housing lottery unit, we are struggling to pay childcare, how are families expected to cope with price fluctuations like this?!?!”
Attorney General James has asked Con Edison to explain the sudden and unannounced increase in rates; to commit to providing consumers advance notice of such increases; and to remind consumers of affordability solutions available to them, including deferred payment agreements and/or bill assistance programs.
“Anyone who opened their sky-high utility bill last month knows that the current system is failing New Yorkers,” said New York City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams. “It’s completely unacceptable that New Yorkers are paying significantly more for power while Con Edison brings in surplus profits. Particularly as Con Edison continues to push for rate hikes, we must investigate how to protect New Yorkers from these unreasonable spikes, and l thank Attorney General James for working to get answers and accountability. As we look to the future, we must also transition away from fossil fuel dependence and toward renewable energy.”
“Every Bronxite and New Yorker has a right to affordable basic amenities and access to keeping their lights on no matter what their zip code is,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson. “Con Edison’s sudden price increases are unacceptable and have caused an unexpected expense to thousands of our most vulnerable residents, leaving them wondering how they will be able to make ends meet. I join Attorney General James in demanding the transparency that we deserve. Con Edison must clearly and effectively communicate rate increases early on. Withholding information from New Yorkers is unacceptable.”
“Consumers found out about these rate hikes through neighbors, on Twitter, or by opening their own stomach-churning bill. Con Edison has the responsibility to proactively reach out to consumers about anticipated rate increases and affordability options,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “As so many households suffer from lost income and higher expenses at this time, the cost of keeping the lights and heat on should not be another burden, and we're still waiting on answers from Con Edison about this outrageous billing cycle.”
“As a Council Member, I was barred from introducing a resolution that would make Con Edison a public authority, requiring government oversight and perhaps preventing the recent cost hike we've experienced. But it's not too late to require accountability and answers from companies like Con Edison,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “Thank you, Attorney General James, for your action and continuing to speak up for the rights of all New Yorkers.”
“Communicating early and often is a business lesson as old as time,” said Westchester County Executive George Latimer. “Westchester residents should not suffer — in the middle of the winter when they need electricity and heat the most — at the hands of Con Edison and choose between keeping the lights on and other necessities. Utility bills must be fair and accurate, and I applaud Attorney General James for her leadership in holding the utility accountable. The utility needs to explain the unexpected increases, and, in the future, they need to communicate early and often if there will be another hike so residents can adequately prepare.”
“These skyrocketing, unexpected costs are hurting New Yorkers’ pockets at an already difficult time,” said Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris. “Con Edison needs to answer for this change and help make customers whole. I am glad Attorney General James is adding her strong voice to the movement demanding answers.”
“It is unacceptable that families already straining to cover the costs of housing, childcare, and putting food on the table have to struggle with soaring energy bills and the added financial uncertainty of falling behind on their bills,” said State Senator Jamaal Bailey. “Working families deserve an explanation for these extreme price increases and advance notice of such significant changes in pricing. I applaud Attorney General James for demanding transparency from utility providers so that New Yorkers are not left in the dark during the coldest months of a pandemic winter.”
“The recent abrupt Con Edison rate increases during the winter months without prior notice are absolutely unacceptable,” said State Senator Alessandra Biaggi. “Con Edison has a responsibility to be open and transparent about any and all rate increases, and must not keep New Yorkers in the dark about any changes. I am grateful to Attorney General James for taking action to protect consumers from unexpectedly high energy bills and holding Con Edison accountable. All New Yorkers deserve access to affordable energy, and should not have to forgo staying warm to do so.”
“Con Edison needs to take up the mantle of responsibility, offer clear guidance to the public, and assist in connecting those who need help with resources,” said State Senator Leroy Comrie. “Countless New Yorkers, stunned by their recent bills, are owed an explanation, and I applaud Attorney General James’ action to help get the public the clarity we all deserve.”
“Earlier this month I called on Con Edison and NYSEG to make the information on the energy bill for New York customers crystal clear, and communicate the best and most cost stable options that are available for people on fixed incomes,” said State Senator Peter Harckham. “I appreciate Attorney General James asking for an explanation into these unprecedented billing spikes as well, and I look forward to possible corrective measures to be set in place as soon as possible.”
“I commend Attorney General James' decisive action against excessive increases in Con Edison's utility bills. Leaders must work together to ensure New Yorkers can afford essentials,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “No one should have to worry about receiving surprise bills for basic necessities that make them choose between keeping the lights on or paying for groceries.”
“Many constituents saw their utility bills increase by double this month, and it isn’t their fault. This is what happens when the profits of corporate shareholders are favored over the needs of everyday New Yorkers,” said State Senator Julia Salazar. We need Public Power NY. We need the Build Public Renewables Act. Con Edison will respond by saying they ‘don’t control the cost of supply.’ Okay, but Con Edison proposes double-digit rate increases for customers in order to generate enormous additional revenue for the company and pass on the costs to the rest of us. And the PSC keeps letting them. We need answers. I look forward to the Attorney General James’ request for clarity. I also agree Con Edison must commit to alerting customers of such increases with advanced notices.”
“The recent spike in utility bills from Con Edison is outrageous and troublesome. It has caused New Yorkers to wonder if they can afford to pay these high prices, especially among my Bronx constituents,” said Assemblymember Kenny Burgos. “No one should have to decide whether to put food on the table or keep the lights on. I applaud Attorney General James for taking action because we all deserve an explanation as to why these hikes occurred in the first place.”
“Con Edison mismanagement and ineffective hedging of the energy market caused New Yorkers’ energy bills to more than double,” said Assemblymember Robert Carroll. “To add insult to injury, Con Edison did not warn ratepayers of the coming surge in energy costs. This perfect storm of mismanagement and silence has hurt millions of New Yorkers and put hundreds of thousands in arrears. I commend Attorney General James for investigating this important issue and for protecting ratepayers from Con Edison’s callous ineptitude.”
“Electric utility service is an essential part of modern living, and the skyrocketing rates passed on to consumers by Con Edison are unacceptable,” said Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz. “It is clear that New Yorkers need a greater voice in the oversight process of our utility services, in particular one that is equipped to receive, redress, and resolve complaints submitted by utility consumers. Thank you to Attorney General James for stepping up during this moment of crisis, and I hope this can be a galvanizing moment for our state to finally create a permanent, independent office to advocate specifically for the needs of utility consumers in New York.”
“The recent spike in residents’ Con Ed bills is both painful and distressing,” said Assemblymember Amy Paulin. “While I understand that Con Ed isn’t responsible for the recent spike in the price of natural gas; there are steps they can take, such as effective hedging, to mitigate such a steep increase. I applaud Attorney General James for her efforts to have Con Ed address this going forward.”
“Unannounced price hikes in the midst of a pandemic that has threatened the economic stability of millions of New Yorkers is unjust and inhumane,” said Assemblymember Karines Reyes. “Con Edison must be held accountable, and it must stop falsely placing the onus on consumers to use less when the cost per kilowatt has tripled in some cases. I am grateful that Attorney General James is standing up for New Yorkers against a monopoly that has continually provided subpar service at exuberant rates.”
“As New Yorkers are working to rebuild, we must answer to those experiencing unexpectedly high energy bills from Con Edison,” said Assemblymember Amanda Septimo. “New Yorkers require access to reliable energy services and deserve transparency. Thank you to Attorney General James for sending a formal inquiry to Con Edison, keeping service providers accountable, and for safeguarding the interests of consumers.”
“We are in full support of Attorney General James to protect vulnerable New Yorkers from the unusually high electric bills,” said Assemblymember Clyde Vanel. “Many of my constituents cannot afford these unexpected increases in their utility bills.”
“No responsible electric company implements an exorbitant, unannounced rate hike in the dead of winter, and Attorney General James is absolutely right to expect Con Edison to answer for their actions,” said New York City Council Member Shaun Abreu. “Keeping your family safe and warm in the winter is hard enough without having to worry about an unpredictable energy bill.”
“My office has received numerous calls from constituents, blindsided by these Con Edison hikes,” said New York City Council Member Eric Dinowitz. “I want to thank Attorney General James for taking this seriously and pressing Con Edison to explain these harmful increases that have burdened New Yorkers during a global pandemic, especially in cold weather months.”
“I commend Attorney General Letitia James’ request to Con Edison for an explanation on the overpriced energy bills many New York City residents have been unexpectedly dealing with this winter,” said New York City Council Member Amanda Farias. “It is imperative that Con Ed offers customers deferred payment options and information regarding bill assistance programs. During the pandemic, many New Yorkers sacrificed to maintain their basic needs and it is shameful that hardworking people have to incur these increases. Our role as elected officials is to protect working families from having unmanageable unanticipated costs imposed upon them with no notice or explanation. I am proud to join Attorney General James in standing up for our neighbors rights to fair and accurate consumer bills.”
“I join Attorney General Letitia James in demanding that Con Edison explain the sudden and unannounced increase in rates that so many New Yorkers, including residents in my district, experienced last month,” said New York City Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez. “In addition to offering answers, Con Edison must work to provide relief to New York’s ratepayers and commit to providing customers advance notice of any future increases. Now more than ever, as New Yorkers continue to grapple with the economic fallout of the pandemic, we need to do all we can to keep utility costs in check.”
“Energy is among the fundamental necessities of a home, next to food and housing itself. The sharp jump in prices is already unacceptable, and the lack of warning ran counter to what New Yorkers expect and deserve,” said New York City Council Member Chi Ossé. “I applaud Attorney General James’ moves to push for affordability and establish transparency. Too many of our neighbors already struggle to make ends meet. The state should ensure that utility payments are not among the people’s concerns.”
“The overnight, unanticipated, extreme increases on our Con Edison bills is totally unmanageable for working families,” said New York City Council Member Lincoln Restler. “Thank you to Attorney General James for always looking out for our communities and joining the effort to fight back against Con Edison.”
“I have received an influx of calls from residents in my district asking for help due to the significant unexplained rise in their Con Edison bills, some in fear of the turn off notices they have received because they cannot afford to pay,” said New York City Council Member Kevin C. Riley. “Equitable and affordable electricity rates should not be a luxury, but a necessity. New Yorkers should not have to struggle or make a decision between having enough to feed their families or keeping their homes warm. I stand with New York Attorney General Letitia James to advocate for the rights of all New Yorkers. Companies like Con Edison have a right to serve the people, and we must hold them accountable for more transparency in their systems and ensure that New Yorkers get the explanations they deserve.”
“The bills that residents across New York are seeing are back-breaking for many families,” said New York City Council Member Marjorie Velázquez. “I find it unconscionable that these increases began with no regard for customers, and no significant notice was given to prepare them for the rate hike. I'm joining Attorney General James’ inquiry to get to the bottom of the rate increase and lack of notification to consumers, and find a way to unburden residents with these arduous rates.”
If you are having trouble paying your gas or electric bill, you can reach out to your utility provider to see what kind of assistance you might be eligible for. Con Edison customers can learn about their options on Con Edison’s website.
New Yorkers can also submit a complaint on the OAG's website or call (800) 771-7755 to have a complaint form sent via mail.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Kate Matuschak and Stewart Dearing of the Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Laura J. Levine and Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia. The Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau is part of the Division of Economic Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Chris D’Angelo and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.