Monday, 13 July 2015

Hydro One has turned me into a meter reader

Long ago, I grew up in Mississauga. We had inside water meters.

Every month or so a city water department employee came around to the house to read the meter. If you weren’t home, the meter reader left a postage paid card in the door. You entered the numbers on your water meter and drop the card in the mail box. In due course, the water bill arrived.

I was dreamed of those easy days after I called Hydro One about my latest bill.
 
Hydro One is the utility we all love to hate. Sometimes with justification. The stories of the recent report of the Ombudsman on the ongoing disaster that is Hydro One is the stuff of legend. Reading about it can keep children up at night.

My last hydro bill wasn’t all that outrageous. But I looked at it carefully.

There it was, right in the middle of the page. Those words which strike fear into consumers everywhere.

We estimated your meter on June 13...

Estimated my meter? Wasn’t my meter read? What is all this multi-billion dollar Smart Meter stuff if Hydro One can only estimate my meter?

Out of curiosity, I went and took a reading off my meter.

The difference was shocking. 1400 kilowatt hours more than their “estimated” reading. Using the most expensive hydro rate band, that’s an additional $200 in hydro that I have used in the last three months but not been billed for. Not yet, anyway.

I pulled out my old bills. Hydro One hadn’t read the meter at all since late March! Every single bill since has been an estimate!

I called Hydro One.

They did not seem very concerned that they had not been able to read my meter for several months.

I asked Hydro One if they could tell me when my meter would be read.

Sorry.

I asked if they could take a manual reading.

Not possible.

What solution did they have to their problem?

Well, you could call us once a month with a meter reading.

Let me get this straight. I have to call Hydro One once a month with my meter reading?

That’s right, sir.

Can you tell me when I should call? Should it be the fifteenth of the month, for example?

No, sir. I will give you the exact date when you have to call us.

Can I send the meter reading by e-mail or by fax or even Canada Post?

No, sir. You have to call us personally.

And if I can’t call you on that date that you give me?

You have to call us on that exact date, sir. Otherwise we can’t give you an accurate bill.

So now I am stuck with calling Hydro One on an exact day of the month. It varies between the 11th and the 15th, depending on the month, between now and the end of the year.

All to get an accurate bill and not have to pay a sizable catch up amount.

Something is really, really wrong with Hydro One. But we all knew that, right?

Incidentally, I shared my little Hydro One tumble down the rabbit hole with Francesca (Call 211) Dobbyn, Executive Director of the United Way of Bruce Grey, my all-knowing wizard on everything Hydro One.

She wasn’t surprised at all. She told me, however, that Hydro One can only estimate a bill for a maximum of four months. Then they have to do a manual reading and give you an accurate bill.

I guess I called Hydro One a month too soon.

Rev. David Shearman is a retired United Church minister living in Owen Sound and the host of Faithworks on Rogers TV - Grey County.