7 On Your Side: Staten Island homeowner in power struggle over bogus bill

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Nina Pineda reports on a Staten Island homeowner's power struggle over a bogus bill.

She was about to move her family into her dream house. In order to save on natural gas she switched to a third party energy service company, E.S.C.O. for short.

But weeks later she was blindsided by an enormous bogus bill. Now months later it was up to 7 On Your Side to turn up the burner to keep her family's heat on.

"I panicked. I have three kids and they're going to shut my gas. And I don't even owe this money. Everyone knows this is a mistake." Welcome to Nicole Noto's power struggle.

Weeks ago she got an ultimatum from her utility, National Grid - either fork over $3,704.81 or her gas would be shut off.

"It's been stressful. I've been on the phone constantly," said Nicole.

Before the family of five moved in last July, a door to door salesperson convinced her to switch gas suppliers from National Grid to Atlantic Energy LLC, a third party energy service company.

"I wanted to save some money," said Nicole.

But their first bill put her on the hook for using a winter's worth of gas - more than $3,600

"Well something's wrong. We were only in the house for two weeks," said Nicole. "There's no way I used that much gas."

So Nicole turned up the heat, contacting both Atlantic Energy and National Grid. Both agreed the bill was bogus.

Her meter was replaced. Nicole says she was told by a National Grid workman that her meter was bad. And, on the next month's bill, the enormous energy charge vanished.

"I thought it was all taken care of," said Nicole. "Until the next bill came."

The mistake was back, this time with late fees included. And instead of a getting a fix, Nicole says the two companies started finger pointing.

"And now they're saying they want to shut off my gas," says Nicole.

That's when the young mom fired us up. National Grid owned the original problem, providing the wrong gas usage. And then Atlantic Energy reached out to the homeowner.

And after more than a week of calls and emails, finally a new bill arrived with a much different balance. "My bill is now $78.55," she said.

Just in time for Christmas, a gas and electric gift. $3,878.61 in charges - gone.

"Thank you so much, 7 On Your Side. I couldn't have done it without you," said Nicole.

Atlantic Energy said the original problem was "100 percent" the fault of National Grid." National Grid agreed, saying it apologized for the inconvenience.

Some big takeaways - if you switch to a third party energy provider you should know your bills will still come from your utility company, just like they always have..

The only change will be the charge for your power or gas usage will be listed as coming from your third party energy provider.

That's why it's critically important to always review each monthly bill carefully to ensure power charges and usage are correct.

National Grid corporate response:

Usage data provided to Atlantic Energy Co. was incorrect. A high bill dispute process was initiated and National Grid began working with Atlantic Energy Co. to make the correction. The customer's November 16 statement reflects the credits and correct charges. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Atlantic Energy LLC corporate statement:

Ms. Noto's billing issue was caused 100% by an inflated estimated meter read by National Grid- it was not caused in any way by Atlantic. Atlantic only became involved in order to assist Ms. Noto in working through this aggravating situation. Unfortunately, due to the manual meter read process, from time to time customers receive utility bills based on erroneous estimated meter reads. When this happens, Atlantic works with the utility to make sure a corrected bill is issued. It is important to remember that utilities and energy suppliers complete hundreds of thousands of billing transactions on a weekly basis, and nearly all are processed seamlessly. In a very small number of unusual situations (such as the inflated estimated meter read in this case), utility billing errors happen which require some additional time and attention to correct, even in situations where no third party supplier is involved.

From the time we were first contacted by Ms. Noto, we committed ourselves to resolving her issue with National Grid. Ms. Noto's billing issue was rare, but we were confident that it would be resolved in due course. It is important to remember that Atlantic was the one that identified the issue after Ms. Noto contacted us directly, and we escalated this issue through National Grid. Times for resolution of billing issues vary based on a variety of factors, including the nature of the issue, the customer's meter read cycle, and other factors. In this case, it took approximately 2-3 weeks for National Grid to correct the problem, which is a bit longer than normal due in part to the holiday, but it is our understanding from National Grid that Ms. Noto's revised bill will be issued this week.

Even though Ms. Noto's issue was in no way caused by Atlantic, as fellow New Yorkers, we were happy to assist her in working through the issue with National Grid. In addition, to show Ms. Noto that we appreciate her as a customer and because of the aggravation that this billing issue caused her, we plan to send her a free Smart Home product bundle that includes 3 Smart wi-fi LED Bulbs, 2 Smart Wi-Fi Cameras, 1 Bluetooth Speaker bulb, 3 Smart Wi-Fi- Plugs, 10 LED Bulbs.

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