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LIPA customers billed for days without power

LIPA worker Neil Williams, of LIPA's Emergency Services,

LIPA worker Neil Williams, of LIPA's Emergency Services, is on the scene along Northside Road in Yaphank Monday morning to restore power. (Nov. 5, 2012) Credit: James Carbone

Some LIPA customers who lost power in superstorm Sandy's wake were fuming this week to discover the utility still billed them for the days or weeks they remained in the dark.

The culprit: estimated billing that charges customers for what the Long Island Power Authority projects they will use for the month based on their history. LIPA says the charge will even out after the next meter reading.

Nancy Garner of Coram is one such customer.

When she received her bill last week, she said she was outraged to find that LIPA had billed her for 1,200 kilowatt hours in its estimated billing for the month, even though her power was out for a week. She said her usage, according to new graphs on the LIPA bill, has never exceeded 1,000 kilowatt hours.

"This is like adding insult to injury," Garner said.

LIPA spokesman Mark Gross said that, because of Sandy, all LIPA and National Grid employees, including meter readers, were reassigned to restoration efforts so bills have been estimated based on customers' typical electric usage at this time of year. National Grid is the London-based company that has a $2.4 billion contract to manage the LIPA grid.

"Since customer electric meters only record actual usage, their next actual meter reading would automatically account for the period that they did not consume electricity because of their outage," Gross said.

He also said customers "have the option to call us at 800-490-0025 and provide an actual meter reading for a possible adjustment and revised bill now."

That's what Garner did. She said the self-reading of her meter lowered her bill by $86.07. She suggested that informing customers of the ability to provide their own meter readings be part of a proposed customer bill of rights being introduced into the State Assembly.

Gross of LIPA said the authority also has suspended bills to customers who suffered severe damage to their homes and electrical systems from the storm, and suspended the 1.5 percent late fee.

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