Rural MPPs say power utility tops lists of complaints


Thousands of Hydro One users in Eastern Ontario and other rural parts of the province are being left in the dark as to when their next electricity bill will arrive.

Some have not received a bill since 2012.

And some customers who are receiving their bills on time complain the charges are often based on their estimated use of kilowatt hours per month — not actual consumption. Bills have also been sent to customers indicating zero consumption of electricity during peak-, mid-, and low-peak hours, but still include a delivery charge for the power that apparently wasn’t used.

Eventually, Hydro One does get around to sending bills based on actual readings, but in many cases, the charges are impossibly high. Some complaints have resulted in favourable adjustments by the utility, but without explanation.

The problems, according to Conservative MPP Randy Hillier (Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington), are linked to smart meters, which the provincewide utility and local power companies such as Hydro Ottawa began installing a few years ago.

Hillier says Hydro One told him there are “an undetermined number of meters” that just don’t work, forcing the utility to replace them. On occasion, meters have been replaced more than once at the same address.

Other smart meters in rural areas cannot transmit billing data to utility hubs because of topography such as hills and forests that interfere with their signals. The utility can eventually gather that data but requires technicians to go to a home or businesses to tap into meters and download the information on laptops.

Hillier says he was given the information by Rick Stevens, Hydro One’s vice president of customer service. The utility did not make Stevens available for comment, telling The Public Citizen to deal with its media relations department instead.

That figures, given how the utility is dealing with customers who say they are being stonewalled when they call customer service with queries.

Take Mike Komendat and his wife, Joanne, who live in the Lanark County community of Balderson. The couple, in their 60s, have not received a bill since November 2012, just weeks after their first smart meter was replaced. Before then, Komendat recalls many of their bills were based on estimated use.

The couple has called Hydro One to find out why they haven’t received a bill for the past eight months, what they owe exactly — they continue to make payments to the account for fear of a massive bill once it finally arrives — and what their energy consumption has been during that time.

“Hydro One’s response to our queries is surreal,” says Komendat in an email. “They categorically refuse to provide us with information, simply saying there is a ‘technical block’ on our account and that they will eventually resolve the issue. This is our account and yet we have no right to information. The arrogance is staggering.”

Hillier says a technical block on a hydro account means the meter needs to be replaced. “But until (Hydro One gets) around to doing that, you get no bill and you get no information.”