Saturday, 1 August 2015

The billing rabbit hole to Hydro One-derland

A few weeks ago, I jumped down the rabbit hole called Hydro One billing. It turned me into a meter reader, because for some unknown reason, Hydro One could not give me an accurate hydro bill. All I had received were a series of estimated bills, which I knew from taking meter readings, were several thousand kilowatt hours and several hundred dollars too low.

When I left the story last time, I was told to call in on appointed day with a meter reading. So I did.

I'm sorry, sir, you are not allowed to do that.

But I was told that I was.

You aren't. I cannot accept a meter reading from you.

But I was told...

You were told wrongly, sir. I am a billing expert at Hydro One. I know these things.

So I can't give you my meter reading?

No, sir.  And your last reading was declined.

But...

You must wait until we have estimated your bill for three months and then we can accept a manual reading.

But your system is not working.

Sir, that is Hydro One's billing system. You have no need to know how the billing system works. 

I hung up. I hate arrogance, especially when all I want to do is pay my bill.

Several days later, my regular Hydro One bill arrived. Or it was posted to their customer service portal. And again it was an estimated bill. That made the perfect three. 

I called Hydro One. I talked to a representative who was polite and helpful. Perhaps my file had been flagged.

The representative took my meter reading and said that it would be inputted into the billing system and used to correct my next bill in thirty days or so.

No corrected bill?

No sir. No corrected bill.

Later that day, while looking for my missing user data on the Hydro One web site, I checked my account again. The mysterious missing usage data had somehow miraculously appeared! All three months' worth!

Then, 24 hours after my calling Hydro One, some strange entries appeared on my payments section. Thinking this could only predict a very expensive bill, I was astonished to find that 24 hours after that, I received, via the Hydro One web page, another, corrected bill! The bill was for $600! But less all the credits, I apparently owed Hydro One just $55.

I paid it immediately. In full. 

Hydro One’s billing system is broken. Badly. They are lying to their customers when they say it has been fixed. My experience shows it has not. 

Hydro One is not responsive to consumer attempts to correct billing problems. Their customer service reps can be arrogant and inflexible. They appear powerless to change anything and can only offer an advice of "pay your bill". They blame their customers, when it is their billing system which is obviously at fault. The billing system works contrary to what their customer representatives say, causing consumer confusion.

No one has authority or ability to do anything. I called the Ontario Ombudsman's office, who took my story, but said they are powerless. The Ontario Energy Board took my information, but said that Hydro One is supposed to establish their own ombudsman's office, which they have not yet done.

There may be another column out of this. But it shows that so far, anyone can fall down the Hydro One rabbit hole at any time. And once there, you are largely on your own in Hydro One-derland.  Welcome to Hydro One hell. May God have mercy on your soul.


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