By Anne-Marie Langan, staff lawyer, Rural Legal Services
Lately Rural Legal Services has had a rash of complaints from seniors, clients with disabilities and persons on a fixed income, about their Hydro Bills. These complaints have included:
Usage has been grossly underestimated for months and then the customer receives a large bill showing that they are owing hundreds, or even thousands of dollars for prior months’ usage even though the customer has faithfully paid their bill by the due date.
Usage has been overestimated and charges added to the bill that don’t seem to make any sense for past due amounts that have already been paid.
People are receiving several bills in one month, all indicating different amounts owing and do not know how much to pay.
People are not receiving any bills for months and then all of a sudden receive a large bill for several months’ usage.
People are being sent disconnection notices when they are on a “budget billing plan” and have religiously been making their payments.
It is therefore very important to carefully check your hydro bill and to compare the bill to the meter reading to ensure that you are being billed for the accurate amount of usage. The new “smart meters” are being read by satellite, and there are many pockets in our area where Hydro One is finding it difficult or impossible to pick up the signal. As a result, the usage is being estimated. However, Hydro One does not appear to be using patterns of usage in prior years to estimate current usage and how they are coming up with their estimates remains unclear. You can call Hydro One at 1-888-664-9376 to report your meter reading and Hydro One will adjust your account accordingly.
Rural Legal Services has sent several letters to Hydro One on behalf of our clients, outlining billing concerns and we have copied this correspondence to the Provincial Ombudsman. Hydro One has addressed some of our clients’ specific issues by agreeing to a payment plan for arrears for a period of six months, on an interest free basis. However, Hydro One has not addressed the more global problems we have identified with their billing system and how it is affecting the lower income members of our community.
An agent from the Ontario Ombudsman’s office has encouraged us to continue to copy their office on all correspondence with Hydro One as they are trying to work with Hydro One to find a more comprehensive solution.
If you are on a fixed income and are having difficulties understanding and/or keeping up with your Hydro Bills, please contact our office at 613-279-3252 or toll free at 1-888-777-8916. We will provide you with the contact information needed to file a formal complaint with Hydro One and with the Ombudsman’s office. If you qualify financially for our services we may also be able to assist you in making the complaint.
This column is brought to you by Community Law School (Sarnia-Lambton) Inc., and Community Legal Services and Pro Bono Students Canada at Western University, with funding support from the Law Foundation of Ontario. It provides legal information only. The information is accurate as of the date of publication. Laws change frequently so we caution readers from relying on this information if some time has passed since publication. If you need specific legal advice please contact a lawyer, your community legal clinic: Rural Legal Services at (613) 279-3252 or 1-888-777-8916, Justice Net at 1-866-919-3219, or the Law Society Referral Service at 1-800-268-8326.