February 5, 2019 9:04 pm
Updated: February 7, 2019 12:36 am

Ontario hydro companies serving 240,000 customers voluntarily ban winter disconnections

WATCH: Hydro company offers to cover customer's bill after disconnecting her power

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Roughly 240,000 Ontario electricity customers no longer need to worry about the threat of being disconnected from their hydro this winter.

Late Tuesday, the Sub-metering Council of Ontario announced that its members, with roughly 240,000 customers, have voluntarily agreed not to disconnect their clients for non-payment of their electricity bills between now and April 30.

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The announcement comes after a Global News report examined how prices in the sub-metering industry are regulated and amid questions from Global News about the number of customers disconnected by sub-metering companies each winter.

According to sub-metering council spokesperson Chris Holz, this decision was made in light of an ongoing review by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) looking into the rules around when and how electricity customers can be cut off from their power.

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Holz also said the move was intended to “match” the existing ban on winter disconnections implemented by the OEB that prohibits companies such as Toronto Hydro and Hydro One from cutting off their customers for non-payment during the winter.

“The [sub-metering council] is proactively implementing a suspension of disconnections during the winter period to match the current period for customers served by local distribution companies,” Holz said.

Tuesday’s announcement means the roughly 240,00 customers serviced by companies such as Enercare Connections, Wyse Meter Solutions and Carma Billing Services will no longer need to worry about losing their hydro if, for whatever reason, they are unable to pay their bill this winter.

WATCH: Voluntary ban on hydro winter disconnections. Jamie Mauracher reports.

“Electricity disconnections are an absolute last resort when all other options to obtain payment from customers for their electricity consumption have failed,” Holz said. “Nevertheless, the [sub-metering council] is moving forward with this policy effective today.”

Two sets of regulations for different companies

Sub-metering companies provide services to apartments and condo units that allow landlords to shift the cost of electricity from one big bill for the entire building to individual bills for tenants.

But unlike local distribution companies (LDCs), such as Toronto Hydro and Hydro One, which are banned from cutting off their customers in the winter months,  sub-metering companies in Ontario are not subject to the OEB’s ban on winter disconnections.

Global News was investigating the case of an Owen Sound woman who, after several months of not paying her electricity bill, was disconnected for non-payment at the end of January by her sub-metering provider.

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The company that disconnected her power was within its legal rights to do so because there is no regulation banning this practice.

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Sub-metering companies are, however, licensed by the OEB and subject to many of the same customer service rules as LDCs – such as rules around billing and late payment notices, security deposits and arrears payment plans.

Low-income customers serviced by sub-metering companies may also qualify for emergency assistance to prevent winter disconnection and to lower their monthly hydro bills. These programs include the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) and the Low-Income Energy Assistance Plan.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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