Ontario Ombudsman launches Hydro One investigation
Dave Reaney checks smart meter
Joanne Schnurr, CTV Ottawa
Published Tuesday, February 4, 2014 5:07PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 4, 2014 5:09PM EST
Ontario’s ombudsman has launched an investigation into Hydro One after hundreds of complaints to his office. CTV Ottawa highlighted many of these stories of people close to bankruptcy, unable to pay their utility bill. Andre Marin decided to launch his investigation after years of trying to resolve hundreds of complaints on an individual basis. He says dealing with Hydro One has been extremely difficult, like trying to catch a slippery pig.
David Baker knew there was something wrong with his smart meter. He's been heating his house near Prescott only with wood and couldn't understand why his hydro bill was so high.
“Ihave energy efficient everything in the house,” said Baker in an earlier CTV story from December.
The Bakers weren't the only Hydro One customers complaining about high bills. Hundreds of them turned to Ontario's Ombudsman for help after getting nowhere with the utility company.
"Stories of huge unexplained catch-up bills, multiple bills or estimated bills with no rhyme or reason,” said Andre Marin at a news conference this morning in Toronto.
The ombudsman has now launched a full investigation. He says it's not about the price of electricity but about billing and communication problems; problems his own office has experienced firsthand.
"Sometimes it’s like wrestling with a slippery pig,” says Marin, “that's why my heart goes out to the average citizens who try to take on the Goliath that is Hydro One.”
The ombudsman says complaints to his office about Hydro One have continued to mount. They more than doubled in the last year to 600. Most of those complaints were about bills being wrong or excessively high. Dave Reaney was one of those customers trying to get answers from Hydro One. He works in heating and cooling and knows the industry. He knew his bill for $2800 over a 200-day period was way out of line.
“Their billing was completely erroneous,” says Reaney, “they were billing me three times what my actual consumption was.”
He says he fought Hydro One and won. David Baker is still fighting but hoping the ombudsman will help hundreds of customers like him struggling to just to pay their utility bill.
"It was in 2005 when I started complaining,” said Baker today, “and here it is 2014 and yeah it is frustrating but I’m glad finally somebody listened.”
Reaney welcomes the ombudsman's investigation but says is much deeper investigation is needed.
“I think it should be a criminal investigation at this point,” says a frustrated Reaney, “I think the ombudsman is a good step but I think there's been some criminal activity and fraud, period.”
Ombudsman Andre Marin is asking anyone who has information pertaining to the investigation to contact his office at 1-800-263-1830, file an online complaint at www.ombudsman.on.ca or email his office at firstname.lastname@example.org The investigation will be conducted by the Special Ombudsman Response Team (SORT) and will be completed within nine months. Marin will then produce his report and recommendations.