Joan Batchelor's nine-month billing nightmare with PSEG Long Island is coming to an end.
PSEG Long Island will mail a $1,309.81 check to the Smithtown woman, whose electric bill had been based on estimates since June because her meter malfunctioned. The culprit: a bees' nest.
Batchelor, 69, whose billing dispute was the subject of a Newsday story this past Wednesday, said she received a call from a PSEG supervisor Monday afternoon.
"She said PSEG will send me a check for $1,309.81, which is the remainder of my credit," Batchelor said. "I said, 'I'll believe it when I see it.' "
Batchelor has a rate that requires monthly reads. But PSEG meter readers who went to her house for each of the past nine months used estimates for her bill because the meter readings showed no usage. Batchelor complained, she said, but "no one was listening to me," and estimated bills kept coming even as she escorted a succession of meter readers into her yard.
PSEG issued an order to replace Batchelor's meter in October, but it wasn't carried out.
On Friday, PSEG sent a technician to Batchelor's home to investigate and replace her old meter, which stopped showing usage in June. A representative from the state Department of Public Service was there to monitor the switch.
The old meter malfunctioned because a bees' nest stopped a dial inside the device, Batchelor said. The meter was replaced, and PSEG will close her old account and start a new one.
PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said the company offered Batchelor either a credit or a check. Last week, he acknowledged, "there were missteps made across different departments, and we are taking the appropriate actions to resolve the issues."
Among those missteps, PSEG found that Batchelor had been given a $1,445 credit in error because of an internal slip-up, and the company had planned to rescind it. At the time, PSEG said it was sticking with the old estimates because they were based on her historical usage.
The offer to send her a check, as she originally requested, reverses that decision.
While pleased by the way the problem was resolved, Batchelor said she's concerned many other PSEG customers are experiencing the same problems.
Weir said the company is investigating the "meter-reading process and the way estimated billing is done . . . to ensure this does not happen again."
LIPA trustee Matthew Cordaro raised the issue at a board meeting last month, expressing concern that estimates were relied on too often, even accounting for a snow-heavy winter. PSEG's winter meter reading rate was 76 percent, compared with a normal 98 percent.
"It really raises questions on a systemwide basis of how they're operating," Cordaro said. "How could this have gone on a year without [PSEG] sending someone out to investigate?"
Batchelor said she wants the company and other utilities to improve their quality-assurance practices. "There's a lot more than meets the eye here," she said. "We need a trustworthy person who can go in with the time and wherewithal to really look at all this stuff."