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PSEG typo led to customer being shortchanged

Jennifer Charney, of Port Washington, put in a claim with PSEG Long Island to receive reimbursement for spoiled food after Tropical Storm Isaias left her without power, but because of a typo made by PSEG on the form, she got $100 less than what she was supposed to receive. Credit: Howard Schnapp

PSEG Long Island is expected to pay out $5 million from company coffers to reimburse customers who put in claims for spoiled food and medicine following Tropical Storm Isaias, but for one customer, that was $100 short.

Jennifer Charney of Port Washington said she wasn't looking for compensation for the eight days she and her mother went without power after the storm, "just my full share of the food money."

Charney is the kind of customer who reads the fine print, so when PSEG’s initial reimbursement form for spoiled food after Isaias incorrectly indicated only claims above $250 required proof of purchase, she excluded receipts because her claim was for just $250.

But when PSEG sent a reimbursement check for just $150 last month, Charney smelled something amiss.

"It did seem a little weird to me," she said of the claim form.

It turns out that the form Charney downloaded when PSEG made them available had an error. It should have said claims above $150, not $250, required receipts. Charney and her mom, had receipts for all of it, mostly organic fruits and vegetables.

"The refrigerator was literally packed full," Charney said.

They live in a Port Washington house that was without power for eight days after Isaias struck.

PSEG spokeswoman Ashley Chauvin said the company corrected the typo less than a day after it was posted on the company’s website shortly after the reimbursement program went live.

"The typo on the claim form was identified and corrected on August 18th, less than 24 hours after the program was announced," Chauvin said.

When Charney tried to refile her claim with receipts for the $250 in spoiled food, the company rejected it.

But Tuesday night, Chauvin said PSEG would pay the $100.

"Ms. Charney sent additional proof of loss and was notified that we received her additional documentation and that the full reimbursement requested is being processed," Chauvin said.

That's different from PSEG's original response, when the company wrote: "The claim form you filled out clearly states at the top food spoilage claims up to $150 must include an itemized list. Food spoilage over $150 must include an itemized list and proof of loss," including receipts.

Charney said the correct information appeared on forms after she filed her claim.

"If PSEG made a typo, it’s not my fault," said Charney, who had vowed to go to small claims court to pursue the lost $100.

In an interview Monday, she said it is both the principle of the matter and a matter of necessity. She’s long-term unemployed and helping to care for her mother, who has dementia.

"Money would help right now," she said.

PSEG said Charney’s issue is not widespread. "We are not currently aware of any other complaints with respect to this matter," the company said.

PSEG is paying the claims out of corporate coffers, not the Long Island operating budget, LIPA officials said during a recent board meeting. The state Department of Public Service and LIPA came to an agreement under which PSEG would forgo the $10 million in annual incentive pay it can receive for meeting 27 different service targets by year’s end. With only around half the $10 million being used, it’s uncertain if PSEG will still be able to earn incentive pay. It’s currently on target to hit 21 of 27 performance targets.

LIPA and PSEG have other expenses tied to the storm. Investigations that LIPA is conducting will use outside consultants in a series of reviews over the next 180 days that could cost upward of $2.2 million, LIPA has said. Asked if PSEG could be asked to pay for the costs of the probe, LIPA, in a response, said it will "pursue appropriate actions for the benefit of our customers based on the facts uncovered by the ongoing LIPA, Department of Public Service/Department of Financial Services, and Attorney General investigations into storm response."

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