One of the state’s largest independent suppliers of electricity and gas for residential customers has refunded nearly $1 million to New Yorkers to resolve complaints about its billing practices.
Ambit Energy issued $950,700 in refunds to 1,566 customers because of an investigation by the state’s Department of Public Service’s consumer advocate, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced.
Most of that money, $500,100, will be paid to 774 Ambit customers in central and eastern New York, according to Cuomo’s office.
“Rather than run the risk of losing its ability to do business in New York, Ambit agreed to address the outstanding consumer complaints investigated by our DPS Consumer Advocate and refund the approximately $1 million owed to customers,” said Audrey Zibelman, chief executive officer of the Department of Public Service.
Syracuse.com reported in May that the state was investigating a spike in complaints about Ambit’s billings.
At the time, the company said the 737 complaints received by the Public Service Commission in 2014 and 2015 represented less than half a percent of Ambit’s customers, implying that the company has more than 147,000 customers in New York. Ambit is based in Dallas, Texas.
The state investigation was launched following complaints about Ambit’s customer disclosure statements and renewal notices, particularly for customers who were moved from a guaranteed-savings plan into a variable rate plan charging significantly more.
Customers will receive refunds based on a number of factors, including how long Ambit charged the customer a higher rate, according to Cuomo’s office.
Most of the refunds will go to Ambit customers who live in Upstate New York counties where National Grid provides electric and gas service.
First established in 2015, the consumer advocate has helped consumers receive more than $3 million in returned fees from energy companies – not including the Ambit refunds – as a direct result of its investigations.
Shortly after Cuomo announced the Ambit refunds, the AARP called on New York to hold hearings to investigate why New Yorkers are paying higher rates for electricity to independent energy service companies, or ESCOs, than they would pay to utilities.
Federal data shows New York’s ESCOs charged the highest residential electric prices in the nation last year – and 14% more than New York’s utility companies, according to AARP.
On average, New Yorkers who used 300 kilowatt hours of electricity per month – typical for a New York City apartment-dweller – paid over $100 more last year if they bought from an ESCO instead of from their local utility company, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data.
“ESCOs promise consumers a discount on their power but too often charge more than the local utility company,” said Beth Finkel, state director of AARP for New York State.