Vivian Kwan got quite a shock when she looked at her monthly electricity bill: it was $11,253.15.
“That would only make sense if I was paying for the whole building.”
The Edmonton woman moved into her new apartment on June 1 and set up an account with EPCOR. She admits she saw some error messages while registering her address and believes the entire condo building may have been assigned to her account instead of just her 700-square-foot suite.
After calling to confirm a zero-balance bill for June, Kwan received her latest bill at the end of July.
“When I opened the PDF file, I was just like, ‘Wow!’ I didn’t even know how to respond. I was just I guess in shock maybe because this amount doesn’t even make sense. It’s a couple of digits too much.”
Highlights of the bill included her total electricity use (122,400 kWh) and the average daily electricity cost ($446.55).
“That’s about nine months of electricity of how much I usually pay. It was a little bit ridiculous.”
Her first call was to a customer service representative.
“The first lady I talked to pretty much pulled up my file, looked at it and her response was, ‘Holy cow, that doesn’t look right!’ and I was like, ‘I know, that’s why I called you guys.'”
She was then transferred to another customer rep.
“I called somebody, being hopeful of getting assisted in a situation, but didn’t and just got turned away coldly,” Kwan recalled. “I just don’t have the ability to pay for something that big.”
She asked to escalate the call and her request was initially denied. That’s when friends suggested she make her issue public on Twitter.
“Never underestimate the power of social media,” Kwan said. “Everybody just started tweeting it out and contacting the media.
“It’s great but it’s also sad to see this is what it takes to make companies respond.”
On Tuesday morning, EPCOR called Kwan to reassure her it is investigating the bill and she shouldn’t worry about the $11,000 bill.
“She won’t have to pay the bill,” EPCOR spokesperson Tim le Riche said.
He agreed “it’s unfortunate” the resolution came after her problem picked up steam online but said the company is reviewing her phone calls and trying to get to the bottom of the mix up.
“I’ve been here 10 years and I’ve never dealt with anything like this,” le Riche said. “I can understand how an $11,000 bill would garner a lot of interest.”
He encouraged any customer with concerns about their account or billing to call 310-4300.
“We’re happy to talk. We’re happy to work with them to sort things out.”
Kwan decided to switch to another service provider.
“Customer service is a huge thing for me because I’ve been in the retail industry for some time… I find it really hard to trust a company that big to deal with something that’s so crucial in my day-to-day life.”
She said she couldn’t get over that first conversation.
“I was not swearing, I was not being rude or anything. I tried to remain pleasant and just be reasonable with the situation but just being straight-out denied that opportunity to figure things out was something that I couldn’t personally deal with.”
Kwan’s bill is due by Aug. 17. She hopes everything is resolved before then and that her credit score isn’t negatively impacted.
“Today they gave me a call again and reassured me again that it’s guaranteed and you won’t be paying… for the bill, but we will have to contact your property manager to see if there’s a solution we can work because the bill is directly under my name right now so they can’t reverse it, is what I’ve been told.”
She’s also relieved she didn’t sign up for automatic withdrawals.