In the last few years, there have been several stories about Ontarians going toe-to-toe with Hydro One over charges. In 2015, The Globe & Mail reported that the company had issued more than 100,000 faulty bills—and lied to the government to try and cover up the problem in the process.
Cottages were no exception to these billing issues. In 2016, cottage owner Kip Van Kempen received a bill for more than $1,000—despite the power line to his Mazinaw Lake cottage being disconnected eight months earlier when a tree fell on the power line. After the installation of a smart meter, a Thunder Bay camp owner received a bill in the mail for a whopping $6,300—despite his electricity usage being seasonal. And yet another owner reported that she had to put her property up for sale after paying nearly $500 per month for an empty cottage.
If you want to avoid going into battle yourself, here’s what you need to know about your electricity delivery.
Know your rights
Your first step is to read through Hydro One’s conditions of service. Next, familiarize yourself with the Ontario Energy Board (OEB)’s service guidelines for electricity, which dictate everything from security deposits (they’re mandatory), to late payment charges (they’re applied 16 days after your bill is issued) to disconnection and reconnection payments. Their website also explains how electricity is charged, and provides historical data to compare your own usage against.
Making a complaint
In addition to learning how to read your own meter, you should keep records of all your paperwork, including any correspondence or conversations that you have with Hydro One employees. If you have an issue or have any questions, you can contact the OEB for assistance. Although disagreements about the charges that appear on your bill should be brought up with your utility company first, they may be able to help you with answering questions of processing your complaint further.
If you’ve already contacted Hydro One but don’t feel that your complaint has been handled fairly (as outlined in the Hydro One Complaints Process), you can also contact the Hydro One Ombudsperson, which is an independent advocate. (Note that if the OEB is already investigating your complaint, the Hydro One Ombudsperson cannot become involved.)
Overbilling and under-billing
Two of the most common complaints are overbilling (which often happens as a result of smart meters, since usage is based on estimated readings) and unanticipated back-billing. If you have been under-billed, Hydro One can issue back bills for a maximum period of two years. Similarly, if you’ve been overbilled, you can request a refund for a period of up to two years. If the error isn’t the result of “Hydro One’s standard billing process,” you’re also entitled to a payment of interest.
Just because you’re not consuming electricity on a monthly or weekly basis doesn’t mean you won’t receive an electricity bill. Even if you only use your cottage seasonally, you’ll still be expected to pay monthly delivery charges for electricity as well as HST.
What to do if you lose energy
When the power goes out, call Hydro One’s province-wide power outage hotline at 1-800-434-1235. When it comes to billing though, Hydro One is not liable for any damages (including financial losses) caused by power interruptions or voltage irregularities, unless they are damages cause by their negligence of willful misconduct.