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Patchogue couple to get $8G LIPA refund

An East Patchogue couple incorrectly billed by LIPA as commercial rather than residential customers for the past decade will receive refunds and credits totaling just under $8,000, they were told this week.

But their fight isn't over.

Elizabeth and Robert Rizzo's case fueled new calls for regulatory oversight of the embattled authority after it and similar ones were reported in Newsday last month.

They said a Long Island Power Authority representative called Monday to detail the refunds -- minus $1,700 in charges the couple disputes.

For being incorrectly classified between 2000 and 2008, the Rizzos will receive a credit of $6,989, Elizabeth Rizzo said. That payment follows two previous credits of $725 and $206.

LIPA is claiming the Rizzos have past charges of $1,700 that will be deducted from the amount, along with last month's bill of $244.

The Rizzos plan to dispute the $1,700 when they meet with LIPA on Friday to go over how the authority determined the credits.

"I really don't feel that it's all there," Rizzo said of the refund.

LIPA officials declined to comment on the Rizzo case.

The decision to give the Rizzos credit for 10 years of overbilling, plus interest, is a change for the authority, whose policy limits refunds to six years. LIPA chief Michael Hervey made the gesture after the error was determined to be LIPA's.

But Tom Ranallo, owner of Troy & Banks, a Buffalo utility bill auditing firm that is reviewing LIPA bills for Suffolk County and the Long Island Rail Road, said LIPA and National Grid recently began limiting rate dispute refunds to the date they are reported, not six years.

National Grid, which manages the Long Island electric system under contract to LIPA and is regulated by the Public Service Commission, said it reviews overcharge complaints case by case.

Suffolk Legis. Edward Romaine (R-Center Moriches) applauded LIPA for "doing the right thing" with the Rizzos, but said he plans to file formal complaints or other legal action if refunds are being improperly limited.

On Thursday, Romaine asked the Public Service Commission to use its oversight authority to "review the billing and credit practices of National Grid to ensure they are consistent with New York State law."

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