An energy service company bowed before the wrath of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz after a billing snafu caused approximately 45 residents of Brighton Beach’s Seacoast Towers, where Cymbrowitz lives, to be enrolled without their consent.
Great Eastern Energy, which has offices on Sheepshead Bay Road, distributed fliers about the availability of the service at the building in mid-February, according to the local pol. But when some residents of Seacoast Towers (1311 Brightwater Avenue and 35 Seacoast Terrace) contacted the company solely to learn more, they received postcards informing them they had been enrolled despite never having signed a contract.
“The language of the flier was not ambiguous and did not in any way suggest that the flier was a binding contract for service,” Cymbrowitz said in a press release. “People were hoodwinked, plain and simple.”
Cymbrowitz says he contacted the company on behalf of residents, but the president, Allan Brenner, refused to back off. Even though Brenner admitted the flier was unclear, he said they would continue to provide service to those residents, according to Cymbrowitz.
The company’s founder, Fima Podvisoky, agreed to cancel the contracts at the pol’s behest.
Action did not come swiftly enough for Cymbrowitz. He filed a formal complaint with the New York Public Service Commission, saying that the company’s practices were “deceptive and predatory.”
A third company official then weighed in last week, telling the assemblyman that all affected residents would be contacted and offered a fixed rate. If the company didn’t hear back from the residents, they would be returned to their regular service.
That official, CEO Matt Lanfear, made the offer by Facebook, including giving an apology for the “clerical error.”
“I’m genuinely sorry that you’ve had this experience with our service. It is not, and could not be less indicative of our business practices and guiding principles,” Lanfear wrote. He noted that he has contacted the Public Service Commission to inform them about the “operational oversight,” and that they’re working with the commission to rectify it. “Some of the residents who received the flyer were enrolled prior to receiving a contract. This was a clerical error and was not meant to be deceptive in any way,” Lanfear wrote in the lengthy post.
The CEO also noted that the company had attempted to respond to Cymbrowitz directly, but to no avail.
To clarify, we’ve also made direct contact with you, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, on several occasions by phone and email. After inviting you to our offices but receiving no response, I’ve decided to come to you—in fact, I’ve contacted your office to schedule a meeting at your earliest convenience. I’m hopeful we’ll get to speak face-to-face upon your return from Albany.
That post on Cymbrowitz’s Facebook page has no response from the local pol, who has been spending most of each week this month in Albany for the legislative session.
The assemblyman definitely saw the response, though; a press release was issued the next day highlighting the apology and expressing his desire to move on.
“In the end, the object is to save people money. If this company can do that, we’re happy to work with them,” he said in the release. “My goal was never to embarrass Great Eastern Energy but to protect constituents, many of them elderly and non-English speaking, who found themselves in a situation they didn’t ask for and couldn’t resolve. We’ve accomplished that goal and now we can move on.”