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Years back I lived in an apartment in NYC and ConEd was sending me electric bills of 300-400/month. I disputed it at the time, saying it was impossible, and they basically said, "OK, we'll investigate. No, we like this, send us our money." I fell behind and had a large outstanding balance of about $1500. I set up a payment plan with them and asked for a written statement of what I owed and what the payment agreement was. They failed to do so and we went back and forth repeating these steps, them even going so far as to cut my power.

They sent it to a collections agency. I spoke with them and said told them I didn't think it was accurate, but since I had no choice, let's set up a payment plan. I again asked for a written agreement of the payment plan and balance, which I never got.

They sent it to a different collections agency about six months ago. When I spoke with them, they said I could file a written dispute. I did, and never heard back from them.

Then yesterday I got a letter from yet another collections agency. I don't know what to do.

Ideally, I want these charges removed since I believe they're invalid. I don't have access to that apartment (I left on good terms with the landlord, though) and figure I'm probably out of luck.

Otherwise, I think I'm right to refuse to pay anything without a written agreement (which everyone involved has promised every step of the way, but never delivered).

What do I do?

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The first thing you should do, and should have been doing all this time if you weren't, is to take the money you would've paid in the payment plan and set it aside in a separate savings account. If your plan was 2 years, $65 a month, then set that aside, now.

That will allow you to be in a better negotiating position when this is finally resolved. It's also possible this takes two years to be resolved - in which case you'll be in position to pay the debt off in full at that point! It's also possible at some point in the future you'll be offered to settle for half or something like that, at which point if you've saved several months of payments that might be more practical to do.


As far as what to do about the charges being removed, unless you have a specific reason for believing they're invalid, that's probably impossible. You could go to the Public Service Commission (outlined in this article about making complaints about overcharges from ConEd); it seems like it's probably too late for that, honestly, but who knows. If you'd made more of an effort at the time, it's possible you could've disputed them back then with PSC.

And, as far as what to do with requiring written payment plans: absolutely, 100%. I would try to find out why you're not getting the plans. Do they have the wrong address, perhaps? Or is your mail sometimes poorly delivered? Ask them to send it via certified mail (you may be charged a few dollars for this), or ask them to e-mail you a copy while you're on the phone with them (my preferred option). Bill collectors like getting their money, so they ought to help you out with this.

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