TRENTON, N.J. – In a letter hand-delivered to the Board of Public Utilities meeting today, Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips blasts Rockland Electric’s request for a rate hike despite their inadequate storm responses and poor customer service record.
“Rockland Electric’s initial reason for the increase is higher customer satisfaction. I believe customers would be more satisfied by simply receiving higher quality service without a rate increase,” wrote DePhillips (R-Bergen).
The electric utility, which serves customers in parts of Bergen, Passaic and Sussex counties, is requesting a 9.6 percent rate hike. The typical customer would pay $19.20 more per month.
Complaints to the Better Business Bureau highlight the company’s history of deficiencies including wantonly cutting off service to a family caring for a sick child, inaccessible customer service representatives, and failing to address an exorbitant number of power outages, just to name a few.
“The citizens served by Rockland Electric deserve affordable energy, and I urge the Board of Public Utilities to consider Rockland’s poor service before making a decision,” the letter to BPU President Joseph L. Fiordaliso stated.
DePhillips, a member of the Assembly’s Telecommunications and Utilities Committee, introduced a “Storm Response Bill” (A3736) last year that would ensure customers receive high-quality service from their public utilities. The bill would allow the BPU to deny approval of a utility franchise if they cannot continuously afford safe, adequate, and proper service at a reasonable price and increases penalties for violations.
“The bill will inject competition by allowing municipalities to eliminate a failed utility franchise and rival utilities to seek BPU approval,” said DePhillips. “We need to empower customers and send a message to utility companies that we will no longer pay for inadequate service.”
DePhillips’ bill will be especially helpful to customers of Rockland Electric who felt they had little recourse for their grievances against the New York-based utility company. The Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee voted unanimously in favor of the measure in October 2018 and referred it to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, where it has yet to be posted.