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Long Island Homeowners Furious Over No-Show Fines From Utility Company

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Some suburban homeowners are furious after being shocked with a surprising fine.

The charge is being tacked onto their bills because they're not home when a worker shows up to read the meter.

The Ferrieras' electric meter is outside of their Mineola house. But like many suburban homes, their gas meter is inside, down in the basement, and must be read every two months.

"I couldn't set the date. They made the date for me," John Ferriera told CBS 2's Jennifer McLogan.

The Ferrieras were fined $25.81 for a "no access to meter" charge.

The family is furious and claims that this has happened twice. They say they can't afford to stay home from work to wait for the meter reader.

"I pay enough for the gas already. I don't have to lose time, when you lose time you know you lose your day's pay," Ida Ferriera said.

Ferriera claims the company was supposed to arrive between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., but never showed up.

National Grid says fees are only applied after multiple appointments have been made to gain access to the meter. The utility suggests that residents who are at work read their own meters using free account services, and enter their numbers online or over the phone.

The Ferrieras and other Mineola families say it isn't that simple.

The Kivatiskys made mistakes with the numbers and were fined multiple times. They claim a late fee was also tacked on. The families say it isn't their job to read meters and called this a blatant ripoff.

"My National Grid bill -- I keep getting charged $25 for a meter reading that I have no access to. I work full-time," Tricia Kivatisky said, "I will read them the meter on the phone, give them the meter reading, and I am still getting charged."

National Grid asked customers to be patient. Automatic meter reading technology will be installed throughout Long Island over the next 18 months.

National Grid also told homeowners that if they take a photo of their meter reading each month and submit it within the allotted time the utility will forgive the $25 fine.

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