Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Con Ed Monopoly in NYC Cripples Urban Professionals, Elderly, Everyone

When I first moved back to New York in August of 2011, I thought it was really cool that I could choose a "greener" way of receiving my energy.  The form to apply for energy service included various options that allowed me to reduce my carbon footprint and I was more than happy to choose service that included such an option.  Initially, it was much cheaper, too.  That is, until I received a bill in February of 2012 that said all those cheap charges I initially received had to be adjusted and that I would owe upwards of $700 those months.  What??  We barely use our lights and I don't have time to cook, I said when I called Con Ed.  At that point, they had adjusted even more and figured that I would owe another $500 or so.  Fuming, I demanded to understand what had happened and through lots of convoluted talk, I found out that our service had been changed without our knowledge.  When I changed our service back to a "greener" service, the charges were much cheaper...EXCEPT for the fact that Con Ed owns the infrastructure that delivers the service.  So I might be charged $9 for the gas I use, but over $30 for the DELIVERY of the gas.  A $100 electric bill might have a $200 delivery bill, for example.

The last bill I paid out to Con Ed, sent just days ago, was for $377.  I live in a very small two-bedroom apartment, mind you, and we never use much electricity and I maybe cook two to three times a week.  This morning, I received another bill from Con Ed for the same time period I just paid for, demanding another $150 or so.  I've paid for the same time periods about three times.  I've paid for the time period between August 2011 and December 2011 about five times.  There are always new adjustments they are finding.  In the last month, I've received about eight different bills with different amounts owed and different due dates all within a week or so of each other.  When I called Con Ed to ask for one simple bill a month, they said they could not do that.

I know this story sounds hard to believe, but what is even harder to believe is that I am not the only person this has happened to and NO ONE is doing anything about it.  If you look at the consumer complaints on this website, you will find many similar stories.
Rory of New York City writes, "As a non-US citizen, I wasn't really sure how much an electric bill should be and swallowed the $120/month average bill they were sending me. Bear in mind, I live in a 1 bedroom apartment, I have no TV, no aircon, no heaters and all of my light fixtures even have energy saving light bulbs! I try to be green.

Towards the end of last summer, this bill started rising to close to $200/month at which stage, I really started to question the numbers. My next door neighbor, with basically the same sized apartment told me that they pay around $50/month. When I was finally able to get a meter reading, Con Ed then sent me a new bill claiming that I owed them an extra $830! This would mean I have been using close to $200/month of electricity in my tiny apartment over 4 years."

Gozalo of Whitestone writes, "Con Edison is charging 150% more of the value of the gas and electricity provided in a continued scam that nobody controls. Our electricity supply of 360 KWh costs $23.72, total charges: $93.18. Our gas supply of 146 therms is $66.35, total charges: $230.44. Total supply cost is $90.07, total charges: $323.62. Who is controlling this scam?"
Erica of Dobbs Ferry writes, "For using $9 of electric, I'm being billed $43.65 for delivery charges. For using $55 worth of gas, I'm being billed $115.08 for delivery. Everyone keeps telling me they can charge what they want but there's no way this can be legal."
Katalina of Yonkers, after looking at her bills, realized she paid over $5,400 to ConEd in a year.  "An 82 year old that stays at home does not use so much gas or electricity," she writes...and I agree.
Earlier during the spring semester at the community college I teach at, a student brought up this issue during one of our headlines sessions.  Every Friday, the class would go over important headlines and this particular student brought up her work at the district office in Queens, in relation to headlines about our economy.  She shared that the district office where she works is currently putting together a class action suit against ConEd for exactly the issues described here.  She said that 80 year-old women were coming to her office with $400 bills for studio apartments.  I remember her saying, "What the heck can an 80 year-old woman be doing to rack up such a bill - it's impossible!"
I filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection and I have reached out to my district's council person, Maria del Carmen Arroyo, but I am very doubtful that anything will happen. I truly believe that because Con Edison has been an unchecked monopoly for so long, there must be many powerful people who are benefiting from its monopoly status and who will allow it to remain one for as long as possible.  ConEd CEO Kevin Burke, for example, will want to make sure he continues making millions off of the disabled and elderly people he scams.  His buddy William G. Longhi, also a ConEd exec and millionaire, probably feels the same way.
If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would say that this is another way folks are trying to drive the middle class out of New York, or another way of destroying the middle class of New York altogether.  If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would say that ConEd is penalizing customers who are choosing greener energy by charging them exorbitant fees to deliver said green energy and, in turn, encouraging the destruction of the planet by doing so.
But I'm not.  I am a scholar and as such, I believe in the word, and the word today is: anti-trust.  ConEd is a monopoly and as such, it is fixing prices.  We have laws against that and I will do everything in my power to make sure those laws are upheld.  I just hope someone is with me.

**If you are with me, literally, and have a story of your own about ConEd's evil ways, please reach out to me here on my blog.  Please post your story and let me know if you are willing to be part of a class action suit and/or sign a petition to start an anti-trust investigation of ConEd.  I look forward to hearing from you!