Like many other individuals I am going broke just keeping up with paying all the high utility bills. And only one utility service has a legitimate reason to raise the rates. Two of the others are penalizing the consumers for their (the company, not the consumer) mistakes. A few, like the phone company, cable TV service and property taxes are just normal rates tied into inflation. This latter I may grumble about but it is acceptable.
So, who are the two companies “stealing” from the consumers – why Enbridge Gas (and other gas companies) and all the municipal hydro companies as well as Big Daddy in Ontario – Hydro One.
Enbridge apparently can’t learn from past mistakes. For winter 2012 into 2013, gas consumption for heating homes rose. Enbridge didn’t factor this possibility into their equal monthly billing. Most of us got hit with an extremely high bill to pay off the difference at the end of the company’s fiscal year. That’s what I found out when I called to complain. Apparently they no longer raise the equal billing rates mid-winter season if necessary. Guess they received too many complaints about that set-up, but my guess is that not as many complaints as the number who complained of the year-end monstrous bills. Consumer advocate here (me) pushed for a deal and got the okay to pay half one month and half the next month.
So, the equal billing amounts were raised only a smidgeon for this 2013-2014 inter and we consumers thought we were getting a good deal – at least compared to what the hydro company was doing. Hah? Now the gas companies, including Enbridge, are raising the rates starting with April’s bill. Enbridge’s rate increase is 40 per cent while Union Gas (southern Ontario) is 28 per cent. Enbridge claims that it had to buy “more spot market gas” and that costs more. See http://www.thestar.com/business/2014/03/27/enbridge_gets_hefty_interim_rate_increase.html
My first question is the obvious one: why didn’t these companies factor in that we might just get another bad winter, if not worse and just maybe they might have to purchase more gas elsewhere? Hello consumer company big whigs – severe weather is now the norm – everywhere and every season. Tunnel vision doesn’t work.
The second question is – why should we consumers have to pay for their costly mistake – or at least to the tunes of 40 per cent and 28 percent, which the Ontario Energy Board okayed? This same energy board is investigating ways to make it not so bad for consumers to pay. Why couldn’t they hold off payment until they found a way? Talk about doing something ass over backwards. So, as usual, consumers are stuck. Those who have gas stoves and gas fireplaces will get hit even harder. Fortunately, I have just the gas furnace and water heater. And here I thought I was “lucky.”
To make matters worse, the head of the Industrial Gas Users Association, Shahrzad Rahbar compares it to getting a root canal and do you blame the dentist for that? Bad comparison. The dental patient may be responsible for dental problems requiring a root canal. But consumers responsible for a gas company’s mishandling of their bad choices and lack of foresight? I think not – at least not to 40 per cent and 28 per cent all-at-once increases. See http://www.thestar.com/business/2014/03/28/natural_gas_rate_increase_angers_consumers.
I know – you have to turn on the gas furnace with an electrical switch and thermostat. Apparently that wasn’t always so. Back in what I’m now more and more realizing were the “good old days” you could get your gas furnace going without electricity.
And now for the other utility money-grabber and that situation is even worse. The gas companies are merely guilty of stupidity but Hydro One and all the Ontario municipalities (the latter have to base at least some of their costs on those of Hydro One) rate increases are for the wrong reason.
In a nutshell, we consumers are paying off Hydro One’s debts.
There is also another shady going-on with Ontario Hydro customers – some smart meters giving excessively high readings, causing some users to go bankrupt from over $2000 monthly hydro bills. Smart meters? Stupid meters. Stupid idea Hydro One and former Ontario premier Dalton McGuilty (McGinty). There are 600 plus complaints about this one to the Ontario Ombudsman so he has launched an investigation into these dealings. Some people say it should go much farther into a fraud investigation. See http://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/ontario-ombudsman-launches-hydro-one-investigation-1.1670529
I can’t remember how hydro and gas bills were set up when I was a child (my parents had oil heating, not gas in our little bungalow) but we were billed for water at a flat rate. I’m not saying we should be billed a flat rate today. And water rates are going up on a continuing but scheduled basis. However, Toronto Water and Waste is doing something with this money. They are upgrading all the old sewers pipes, water pipes – the infrastructure that goes back 50 plus years, and doing extra on their part to stop basement flooding in Toronto areas prone to that. So, while I may complain about the high water rates, at least I know my money is being put to good and necessary use.
Unlike hydro rates, which despite the mess-up with some “smart” meters, has gone up three times in seven months.
Something is really wrong here. We can conserve energy (heating, etc. not our own personal energy) until the proverbial cows come home, but it doesn’t seem to matter much.
Come to think of it, with this situation, do the cows really want to come home anyway?
What do readers think? Are you experiencing similar utility hikes where you live?
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes