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Alleging Utility Billing, EDI System Errors, Retail Supplier Petitions PSC To Order Utility To Disgorge Service Fees, POR Discounts Paid By Supplier

Retail Supplier Says Its Financial Records, "Are In Complete Disorder," Due To Alleged Utility System Errors

February 28, 2022

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Copyright 2010-21
Reporting by Paul Ring •

The following story is brought free of charge to readers by EC Infosystems, the exclusive EDI provider of

Agway Energy Services, LLC filed a petition with the New York PSC requesting that the PSC order Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corporation (Central Hudson) to remedy what Agway alleged is Central Hudson's, "faulty computer system" and to provide, "accurate customer information and data."

Among other relief, Agway asked the PSC to order Central Hudson to disgorge any service fees or POR discounts paid by Agway due to alleged violations of the Uniform Business Practices and the utility's Billing Services Agreement which resulted from the alleged billing and system issues

Agway alleged, "Agway’s financial records are in complete disorder because of Central Hudson’s conduct."

A media representative for Central Hudson provided the following statement concerning the matter:

"Central Hudson is in the process of implementing a new customer service platform to replace a nearly 40-year-old legacy system in order to meet the complex and changing needs of our industry and customer expectations. As we transition to this new system, we have encountered challenges that our employees and vendors are actively working on to resolve as quickly as possible.

"On Friday, we received a copy of the petition filed by Agway Energy Services. We are reviewing the filing to provide a formal response."

--- Statement from Central Hudson media representative

In its petition, Agway alleged that Central Hudson put a new computer system into production on September 1, 2021.

Agway alleged, "Central Hudson’s new billing system has resulted in some customers, including customers that Central Hudson shares with Agway, being overbilled, others being underbilled, and some not being billed at all."

Agway alleged, "Similarly, some customers were not billed for several months, and then received single, large multi-month bills from Central Hudson."

Agway alleged, "some of the customers that Agway shares with Central Hudson have not received a bill since Central Hudson’s new system came on line, nearly six months ago."

Agway alleged, "As a result of Central Hudson’s billing/cancelling/rebilling fiasco, this Agway customer just received a bill covering more than six months and requiring a payment in excess of $650.00. Meanwhile, the customer advised Agway that he had been making monthly payments to Central Hudson. Moreover, another customer who called Central Hudson for assistance or explanation was told by a Central Hudson representative that Agway was responsible for the invoice issues."

Agway alleged, "Numerous EDI-related issues have arisen since Central Hudson’s system went on line in September, which have directly impacted Agway and cost Agway thousands of dollars in lost productivity and staffing costs."

Agway alleged, "the errors number in the thousands and include EDI file formatting errors that prevent Agway processing EDI records without manual intervention; payment files that do not match the corresponding POR cash payments sent to Agway; cancel transactions without matching rebill transactions; invoice transactions without corresponding meter read transactions; incorrect dollar amounts or meter reads (often the amounts are double-charged on invoice transactions); doubled units on EDI invoices (EDI 810); and drop transactions that do not relate to Agway’s customers."

As one example, Agway alleged, "For customers who had a meter reading in September, October, and November 2021, Central Hudson sent approximately 1406 EDI 810 Invoice transactions, covering 768 accounts, between 35 and 134 days—from 1 to 5 months—after the ending meter read date."

As another example, Agway alleged, "Agway has also received more than four hundred (400) EDI 810 records with either missing or incorrect sales tax data. As of February 10, 2022, invoices have not yet been cancelled and rebilled with the correct sales tax for eighteen (18) records that contained the wrong sales tax rate and four hundred nine (409) more that contained no sales tax at all."

Agway alleged, "Agway raised the incorrect tax issue with Central Hudson in September 2021. On February 22, 2022, Central Hudson sent a 'blast' email to all of its ESCOs, stating: 'Several ESCOs have noticed that some accounts were not receiving the proper sales tax amount. Last week approximately 2,400 accounts were cancel/rebilled to correct this issue. For certain accounts cancel/rebills were not performed and those ESCOs will receive separate communications later this week along with a payment for the unbilled sales tax (which will be wired tomorrow).'"

Agway alleged, "most of the EDI 820 payment files that Central Hudson has sent to Agway since September 2021 have not matched the amount of the corresponding payment to Agway."

Agway alleged, "Agway received EDI 814 files (files related to dropped customers) between September and December for customers that are not even Agway customers, but instead belonged to other ESCOs. Central Hudson may have sent 814 EDI drop transactions related to Agway customers to other ESCOs in error, but Agway has no way of knowing."

Agway alleged issues with Central Hudson’s electric price portal used by ESCOs to submit pricing. Agway alleged, "Central Hudson’s electric price portal appeared to be operational at the time of system conversion. On September 30, 2021, however, Central Hudson lost all prices entered up to that date. This resulted in many customers being billed incorrect rates on their first invoice following conversion."

Agway alleged, "Central Hudson has caused further confusion with its 'Ineligible Customer List.'"

Pursuant to a July 2016 moratorium, and a subsequent Order from the PSC, ESCOs may not sell gas and electric to certain customers on various assistance programs. Central Hudson therefore publishes a list of ineligible customers.

Agway alleged, "Based on a challenge from Agway, Central Hudson confirmed in December 2021 that its November 'Ineligible Customer List' was inaccurate. It then took Central Hudson until February 13, 2022 to confirm that its posted list was accurate. Central Hudson’s unreliable data made it impossible for Agway to know if it was violating the PSC’s rule against ESCO sales to low-income customers."

Agway alleged, "Agway’s financial records are in complete disorder because of Central Hudson’s conduct. Agway estimates it may take a year or more to correct its records; assuming, of course, that Central Hudson resolves the errors with its system."

In summation, Agway alleged, "Central Hudson has failed to comply with its obligations under the BSA [Billing Services Agreement] by, among other thing, providing thousands of erroneous EDI records, failing to provide accurate and timely POR payments, failing to provide an adequate platform for entry of rate data, failing to calculate customer billing rates correctly, and failing to provide accurate Ineligible Customer Lists."

Agway said that the PSC, "must declare that Central Hudson is out of compliance with its obligations under the Uniform Business Practices and its BSA with Agway, require that Central Hudson remedy its disastrous system immediately, and protect Agway from unknowing violations of the Uniform Business Practices."

Among other relief, Agway sought that the PSC:

• Order Central Hudson Gas & Electric to disgorge all Service Fees and other fees charged to Agway Energy Services, LLC from September 1, 2021 to the present and that it may not charge additional service and other fees to Agway until such time as the monitor appointed pursuant to Section E above affirms to the Commission that Central Hudson has corrected its faulty system

• Order Central Hudson Gas & Electric to disgorge all discounts applied to its POR payments to Agway and to suspend those discounts until such time as the monitor appointed pursuant to Section E above affirms to the Commission that Central Hudson has corrected its faulty system and that all back-payments and adjustments have been made

• Award compensatory damages, in an amount to be established following a hearing, together with an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees and expenses

• Declare that Agway Energy Services, LLC shall not be liable for any alleged violation of the prohibition on supply of electricity or natural gas to low-income individuals where such supply was unknowing and based on information that should have been, but was not, provided by Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation

Case 22-E-0121

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