Utility bills could be easier to pay for many New Yorkers under a package of bills advanced Thursday in the state Senate as lawmakers seek to address increased costs for ratepayers.

The measures grew out of a legislative review by the Senate Investigations Committee into utility price surges over the last year.

"Far too many New Yorkers have difficulty understanding their utility bills, and often the determination of rates is unclear, leaving the consumer frustrated with their utility companies," said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. "Today's bill package addresses the outdated and inaccessible process to protect ratepayers across New York, and hold utility companies responsible. Additionally, this bill package works to address the affordability of utilities and expand payment plan options to consumers. I'd like to thank today's bill sponsors for protecting consumers and working to lessen the economic burden on families across New York.”

Lawmakers approved measures that would have utilities operating in New York to file with the Public Service Commission a procedure for calculating estimated utility bills and use more actual meter readings. Lawmakers also want to create better compliance of regulations by making it easier for the Public Service Commmission to assess penalities on utilities for violations of the Public Service Law.

Separately, a bill was approved that would create minimum standards for payment plans for eligible customers that would also require the regulators at the Public Service Commission to put in place standards for those plans.

And lawmakers want to address instances in which utilities have misled ratepayers.

“In this era of unreasonable rate hikes, massive billing errors, and an utter lack of corporate accountability, utility consumers need and deserve protection under state law," said state Sen. James Skoufis. "My bill to slam utility companies with quarter-million-dollar fines when they've demonstrably lied to or misled ratepayers is one of many reforms needed to hold these corporations' feet to the fire, and I applaud the passage of this wide-ranging slate of consumer protections.”