March 11, 2015 12:53 pm
Updated: March 11, 2015 7:23 pm

Ontario Ombudsman details ‘shocking’ billing practices at Hydro One


WATCH: The Minister of Energy won’t tell Hydro One to stop sending out false threats of imminent disconnection but criticises them for their customer service. Alan Carter reports.

TORONTO – The Ontario ombudsman detailed some of the “shocking” billing practices at Hydro One that he is investigating as part of a report which will be released in the coming months.

Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin launched his investigation into the “broad systemic problems behind the unprecedented number of unhappy customers” at Hydro One in 2014, after 7,900 complaints about the utility.

“We’ve seen absurdly high bills and atrocious customer service. We’ve seen the same astounding errors over and over again. People charged $10,000 or $20,000 at a time, then what they really owe is closer to $100.”

WATCH: Ombudsman calls Hydro One customer service “shocking” and “atrocious”

His 2014 annual report said the complaints were the most ever received about a single government organization.

Marin also detailed the utility’s practice of sending out disconnection notices to people who owed money, despite admitting to him, he said, that they were “empty threats.”

“Hydro One has been threatening to cut off people’s power because of unpaid bills. Hydro One promised us that it would not cut anyone off. But that’s not what it told people who were calling us in tears,” he said.

“They called it a tactic to encourage payment. I think most people would call it something much worse.”

WATCH ABOVE: Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin slammed Hydro One on Wednesday for delivering threats to customers of cutting off their power – despite a clear policy against it.

In one particular case, he said a father of a six-year-old boy in London received a disconnection notice on Feb. 14 as the temperature dipped below -20 degrees Celsius.

The Ombudsman said Hydro One notified him on Tuesday that it would stop the disconnection notices.

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WATCH ABOVE: Andre Marin, Ontario’s ombudsman, explains his experience with Hydro One after requesting that the company revise their tactics to encourage customers to pay their bills.

Hydro One issued a statement following Marin’s press conference claiming a “new customer information system” implemented in May, 2013 led to billing issues for six per cent of its customers. The statement reiterated that customers with incorrect bills will not receive disconnection notices.

“We have come a long way. In the past year we have restored service levels at our call centre and performance of our billing system to levels higher than before the transition to our new billing system two years ago,” said Carm Marcello, the President and CEO of Hydro One. “Our relationship with our customers goes far beyond the bill. With the technical issues behind us, we are now revisiting all of our customer interactions with the goal of transforming our business into a truly customer caring organization.”

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