ROCHESTER, N.Y. – It’s not just residential customers getting walloped with giant surprise bills from RG&E, some business customers are getting hit too. News10NBC has been reporting on a new state investigation into RG&E’s billing and customer service issues following a months-long News10NBC investigation into the problems.
Donald Swartz owns Veneto Wood Fire Pizza and Pasta on East Avenue in downtown Rochester. For the last few years he says, dealing with RG&E has been a bit of a nightmare, “we’re lucky if we get a bill every two months, we have to call and ask and basically beg,” he tells News10NBC, “and keep in mind, it’s not 10 minutes on the phone with RG&E, it’s probably an average of 90 minutes on hold just to get an operator, then to get through to the right department or someone that could try to help.”
RG&E won’t allow Swartz to call-in his meter reads because it is a business account and he says often when one is scheduled, RG&E doesn’t show up. Because of his persistence, Swartz has had some actual meter reads since the pandemic, that’s why when his most recent bill arrived this week he was shocked, “my bill this month was $20,829.25, I had to get up off the floor and breathe a little bit first,” he recalls.
The normal bill for the building where Veneto’s is located is about $3,500 per month. So, even though this particular billing cycle appears to cover two months, it’s nearly 3 times higher, “obviously, something is horribly wrong with this bill,” Swartz says.
Earlier this week, the President of RG&E told News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke that it recently switched over its billing system and between working out some glitches and being short-staffed, the utility is in a bit of a customer service crisis, “that’s why I’m asking customers for patience, but I understand that they’re going to hold us to high standards, and until we meet their standards, they’re going to complain and it’s fair,” says Trish Nilsen.
In a statement regarding Swartz’s issue directly, a spokesman for RG&E said Friday, “According to our records, several meter readings were scheduled and successfully conducted for this commercial customer in the past year. There were a few instances where readings were not possible due to the building being inaccessible. In those instances, as is standard practice, estimates of past usage were applied. We will continue to connect with this customer to address their concerns.”
The utility says customer-submitted meter reads are not an option for commercial customers with a high volume of energy usage.