Billings resident upset with lack of information provided by Hydro One

MANITOULIN—A Billings township resident is upset that Hydro One officials did not contact him last August when the smart meter installed on his home was no longer effective to give an indication how much hydro has been used, and that he has only received estimated hydro billing costs.

“Basically, I’ve been getting estimated bills from Hydro One since August of last year, and Hydro didn’t let customers like myself know that there was a problem with the smart meters, and never advertised there were any problems,” said Brian Parker, a Billings township councillor. “I was told today that the machinery that Hydro One uses to determine the amount of hydro used, and in turn the costs a customer pays, has been down for seven months and has still not been fixed. The smart meters have to be in area that can be accessed to cell phone technology, and while my neighbour’s system has been okay, mine wasn’t running correctly.”

“My biggest concern is seniors who are on fixed incomes that can’t pay the catchup costs,” said Mr. Parker. “And apparently Hydro One has a no interest plan they have set up for cases like this, but they haven’t advertised that either.”

When the Recorder contacted a Hydro One spokesperson earlier this week for comment, this reporter was advised to go online to find letters that have been addressed to Hydro One customers.

Carmine Marcello, president and CEO of Hydro One, said in a letter to customers earlier this month, “First and foremost, I would like to apologize to you if you are experiencing billing and customer service issues. As the leader of Hydro One, I am directly accountable for customer service and I promise you that I will focus our resources on not only fixing these problems but on changing our customer service culture.”

[box type=”note” align=”aligncenter” ]Also Read: Hydro One billing problems an Ontario-wide concern – Barrie Island resident still without hydro four weeks later – Oakville Hydro to take over power generating station in Kagawong[/box]

“This past May Hydro One transitioned to a new billing system,” explained Mr. Marcello. “Our previous billing system was more than a decade old and needed to be replaced to continue to reliably and effectively meet our customers’ needs and manage our business. While the new system did correct
some of the existing issues, the unanticipated result was that some of our customers have experienced prolonged estimated bills, delayed bills, multiple bills or no bills at all. We also know that some of you who are calling our customer communications centre have also experienced a lower level of service as we have been unable to provide you with the answers to your questions in a timely manner. As well, some of your escalated complaints are sometimes taking months to resolve.”

“Clearly, this is not the level of service you deserve from Ontario’s electricity delivery company,” wrote Mr. Marcello. “It is not the level of service we aim to deliver. I have focussed every available resource on resolving these issues.”

“The last thing I want is for our customers to worry,” continued Mr. Marcello. “You deserve bills that are clear, timely and accurate. I want to assure you that we will make this right and customers will only pay for the electricity they use. If you receive a catch-up bill because you have been billed on estimates or have not received a bill for some time, we will work with you to arrange a reasonable payment plan. If we have made a mistake on a bill, we will not charge interest. If we find that we have overbilled you, we will offer a refund cheque. We are improving training at our customer communications centre to make sure agents have the information they need to answer more of your questions on the first call. I also pledge to keep you informed on our efforts to transform our customer service culture.”

[box type=”shadow” align=”alignleft” ][polldaddy poll=7838317][/box]Earlier this month Andre Marin, Ontario Ombudsman, began an investigation into the transparency of Hydro One’s customer billing practices and the timeliness and effectiveness of their process for responding to billing concerns.

Mr. Marcello, in a letter to Mr. Marin dated February 5, 2014, stated, “let me start by offering you my complete cooperation and support and that of my staff during the course of your investigation. You should not hesitate to contact me directly if there are issues that are not being resolved to your satisfaction.”

“I think you hit on a key issue in your recent media appearances,” wrote Mr. Marcello. “Hydro One’s move to a new and complicated billing system has created some of our customer challenges, but the real test of our customer commitment has been more about the time to resolve issues and how we have managed every customer interaction. Your point was not lost on me. We need to make this right for our customers.”

“Managing technical issues aside, it is very clear to me that we have not been able to move that marker fast enough or far enough on these issues,” he continued. “I have put in place a very aggressive action plan to resolve our issues and to restore customer trust. We will learn from our mistakes and look forward to your recommendations. I would appreciate any opportunity to discuss your investigation and our plans.”

Tom Sasvari