Couple Seeks Refund After 40 Years of Utility Overcharges

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    A Lynbrook, Long Island couple has been denied a full refund after what they claim has been four decades of utility overcharges by their gas and electric companies. (Published Friday, July 8, 2011)

    A Lynbrook, Long Island couple has been denied a full refund after what they claim has been four decades of utility overcharges by their gas and electric companies.

    Sal and Ruth Mazzaro estimated that over 41 years of living on Putnam Avenue, they paid at least $10,000 too much to National Grid and the Long Island Power Authority.

    "Forty-one years I'm paying this.  It's unbelievable, a shock.  This is crazy," said Sal Mazzaro, a retired restaurateur.

    Both National Grid, the gas company, and the Long Island Power Authority, the electric company, confirmed the billing errors in letters to the Mazzaros.

    The utilities were charging the Mazzaro's home as a commercial rather than a residential property.  Neither company, however, said how long the faulty billing went on.

    The first time the Mazzaros complained about this was in March.  As a result, the couple has only been refunded about two months of overcharges - roughly $400.

    According to a letter sent last month by the state Public Service Commission, the Mazzaros are not entitled to any more money because, in essence, the coupled failed to catch the mistakes sooner.

    The backs of their monthly bills indicated the "commercial" designation for their home.

    "Is that fair?  C'mon!" said Sal Mazzaro.  "Who reads the back of their bills?  It's crazy."

    One Nassau legislator believes the utilities, not consumers, should be responsible for errors like this.

    "They have been stealing money for 41 years.  Why aren't they held responsible for the entire time?" asked Nassau legislator David Denenberg, who is working to help the Mazzaros and others hit with faulty utility bills.

    Late Thursday, a PSC spokesman offered a ray of hope for the Mazzaros.

    "If a utility customer wants more a refund, they must submit proof," said the PSC's James Denn.  He refused further specific comment on the Mazzaro's case.

    The Mazzaros said they have about six years of faulty bills.

    For its part, a LIPA spokesman said the utility is reviewing their case.  National Grid added that it "always works to resolve issues with customers."

    "We don't want to become millionaires," said Sal Mazzaro.  "We just want to be treated fairly."