KIYC: Customers of Systrum Energy angered by rate increases

KIYC: Utility hikes anger customers (2/14/14)

GREEN BROOK - While most of New Jersey deals with a cold, snowy winter, customers of one New Jersey utility company are steaming mad about their electric bills, so they got Kane in their Corner.
 
Jung Pak, of Green Brook, is one of many New Jersey residents who switched his electric service to Systrum Energy of Westwood, in Bergen County. For the first six months, Pak says he and his family saved about $10 to $15 a month. But those savings were erased, and then some, by a monstrous January electric bill. It was more than $484 for electricity alone, nearly triple what the family would have paid their local utility, PSE&G.
 
For the Paks, it was a headscratcher. They have gas heat and certainly weren’t running the air conditioning.  So Jung Pak called to cancel service, but was told that will take time. “We are locked into this provider for at least another month and will probably be charged this enormous rate again,” he says.
 
The Paks aren’t alone. Kane In Your Corner has received calls, emails and Facebook messages from Systrum Customers all over New Jersey. Many are upset that the first time the company said anything about a rate increase was in an email on Jan. 31, well after the price hike had happened.
 
Systrum Energy CEO Alex Tullo blames the increase on the extreme cold, which he says caused his own wholesale energy costs to triple. He says he didn’t warn customers in advance because he had no warning himself. “All our rates, they’re substantiated,” Tullo says. “It’s not like I just woke up one day and said, ‘I decide to increase everybody’s rates.’ These are our legitimate costs.”
 
Tullo now says he is getting out of the electric business, at least temporarily, and is switching all Systrum customers back to their local utilities. But that switch could take another month, which means customers will likely be hit with at least one more higher bill.

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