As we enter what some meteorologists have promised/threatened will be a particularly harsh and sweaty summer, Con Ed has sent shut-off notices to nearly 1 million customers for failure to pay their mysteriously costly bills.
According to the AARP, Con Ed's spiking prices are the likely culprit behind the 937,973 New York City residents who have been served with "final termination notices" since January. An earlier study [PDF] from the group found that more than half of residents age 50 and up have struggled to pay for their utilities. Despite this, a bill to form a utility watchdog group has failed to gain traction in the Senate.
Gerald Norlander, Executive Director of New York's Public Utility Law Project, attributes New Yorkers' increasing inability to keep up with their bills on the seemingly skyrocketing prices.
"Many customers are on payment plans, paying off prior arrears from bills they could not afford," he said in a statement. "When new bills jump due to the volatile prices favored by the (utility-regulating) Public Service Commission, customers fall behind again and miss the due date for their current bill, plus the installment payment on old arrears.
"The utility is then allowed to demand all past due amounts, demand late fees, and shut service off as a collection measure. This creates impossible situations, hardships and often hazardous conditions when less safe forms of energy are used."
Even without the surge, New Yorkers are also plagued by exceptionally high electric rates that amount to nearly double those of the national average, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
In April, State Senator Charles Schumer announced that he'd requested an immediate investigation by the Federal Trade Commission into the soaring gas and electrical bills that afflicted consumers throughout the winter. "We know the polar vortex brought record cold, and as a result the price of gas obviously went up," Schumer said at the time. "But was the increase in the bills proportionate to the increase in gas prices?"
If the investigation uncovers wrongdoing, Schumer said that rebates could potentially be offered to customers.
Con Ed did not respond to a request for comment.