Wednesday, July 25, 2012

PULP Describes Walk-In Customer Service Deficiencies During Con Edison's Lockout of Union Members to Legislative Committees

In a July 24, 2012 letter, PULP described the diminution of services to customers seeking help at Con Edison walk-in customer service centers to three state legislative committees conducting hearings on the effects on safety, reliability, and customer service during its lockout of approximately 8,000 employees who are union members.

Based on Con Edison's Response in a pending PSC proceeding, its Staten Island office is the only walk-in office open.

Offices in Manhattan and the Bronx are closed.

Offices in Mount Vernon, Queens and Brooklyn are only open to receive payments.

PULP underscored the importance of offices being open for individuals to seek or restore service:
Con Edison regularly shuts service off to more than 5,000 customers per month.  It negotiates more than 30,000 individualized deferred payment agreements per month with persons seeking to obtain, maintain, or restore services.  It restores service to more than 5,000 customers previously shut off for bill collection purposes each month. The continuity of services needed to obtain or restore service is a matter of concern.
Some of the customers who apply for or seek to restore services do so through personal visits to walk-in customer service offices.  Persons who seek in-person service may do so for a variety of reasons, including hearing difficulties, speaking difficulties, language barriers, lack of  a working telephone, or limited capacity to understand what needs to be done to obtain service.  Some need to complete written applications for service, which are required when there are arrears from a prior customer at the premises.  Some need to submit proof of identity, or submit documentation showing proof of residence at an address where service is requested, or submit doctors' letters documenting serious medical conditions likely to be worsened by a lack of utility service, and so forth.
Some customers do not have scanners, computers, email or fax capability to submit documents to the utility, and do not have money to pay for such services.  Some customers need to bring along a friend, relative or neighbor to assist in obtaining service.  Some customers seek to negotiate deferred payment agreements to get an opportunity to repay over time, and to thereby obtain or preserve service that otherwise would be denied or terminated.
PULP noted the importance of continued utility service not only to individuals who may be without it, but also for the safety of the public.

PULP indicated that on three prior occasions the Public Service Commission had ordered utilities to reopen and continue operation of walk-in customer service centers, including Con Edison's.  Two of the orders were issued by PSC Chairs as an interim measure, pending further investigation.

For prior PULP Network posts on the subject see:

Con Edison Locks Out Employees Who Are Union Members

PULP Moves to Intervene in Proceeding Regarding Deterioration of Customer Service During Con Edison Lockout

PSC Directs Con Edison to Respond to Petition for Investigation of Service Impairment Due to Company's Lockout of Unionized Workers

PULP Replies to Con Edison Defense of Reducing its Walk-in Customer Services During Lockout of Unionized Employees

Unions Rebut Con Ed Assurances to PSC that Lockout of 8,000 Employees Has Not Eroded Services

PSC Seeks Comments on Whether the Federal Preemption Doctrine Bars It From Taking Action Regarding Service Diminution During Lockout Because the Union has Filed an Unfair Labor Practice Claim with the NLRB

Three Assembly Committees to Hold Joint Hearing On Con Edison Service During Its Lockout of 8,000 Employees

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