Utility insurance raises questions for residents

EDMONTON – Some Epcor customers are confused and concerned about an insurance offer that recently turned up in their mail.

The offer – headed with “important information for Epcor customers” – encourages residents to consider purchasing “exterior water service line insurance” from U.S. company HomeServe for $10 per month. The plan covers costs associated with breaks or leaks in water lines on residential properties.

“If a break or leak happens on your property, it will be your responsibility to pay for the repairs,” reads an accompanying letter signed by Epcor vice-president Jill Matthew.

While basic homeowners insurance usually covers damage to a house, repairs to damaged pipes are typically not covered.

The plan would not cover pipe that needs to be replaced because of changes in the building code unless there was a break or a leak in the pipe.

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Breaks are a rarity in the south side neighbourhood where Wen Chen lives, so the homeowner was puzzled when the information appeared in his mail.

While the HomeServe literature said repairs can cost between $3,000 and $6,000, Chen said he’s not sure if the insurance rate is competitive or if the coverage is even necessary. He called his insurance company, but has yet to receive an answer.

A caveat distancing Epcor from HomeServe in the literature added to Chen’s uncertainty. It states that Epcor will have no obligations to the customer if they decide to purchase the optional insurance.

“It’s almost like Epcor is diluting the customer’s trust by keeping so silent,” he said.

“I’d just like more information and comfort to decide.”

Though Epcor is not providing the insurance, a partnership between the utility company and HomeServe allows for Epcor’s name and logo to be used on information sent out to residents, Epcor spokesman Tim le Riche said.

“We think it’s a completely reasonable option for people to consider,” he said, noting that the coverage is optional. “This may not be right for some people. For other people, it might be just what they need.”

Epcor received an undisclosed for the partnership.

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Cindy Husband said she doesn’t think the utility company should endorse a company or a product, especially if it is cashing in on the deal.

“Obviously, Epcor made money on our names and that’s wrong,” said Husband, who owns a home in northeast Edmonton. “It makes me feel like someone’s using us.”

Epcor is prohibited from supplying HomeServe with client names and addresses by privacy laws.

HomeServe spokesman Myles Meehan said the company purchased names and addresses from an independent third party, and has sent out about 300,000 mail-outs, mostly to Edmonton residents.

The partnership with Epcor is the first expansion for HomeServe into Canada.

It’s not the first time the company has been in the news. The insurance provider faced criticism in American states when their marketing material appeared to come from utility providers instead of the company.

Meehan said the confusion has since been cleared up.

“No wrongdoing was found on our part,” he said, adding that HomeServe has now made their mail-outs.

The troubles did not affect Epcor’s decision on the partnership, le Riche said.

“We did our due diligence and we’re satisfied that HomeServe has dealt with those issues.”

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