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New Fortis bills shock customers

It’s only the first month of 2014, but residents in the Central Okanagan are already ticked off at FortisBC and how the company handled electricity billing following their six-month lockout with union workers.

The inability to read meters between July and December meant Fortis was only guessing at how much electricity residents were using, and because they still haven’t completed their meter reading following the lockout, they are using estimates from last January for the current billing cycle.

“During the six-month labour disruption we had been estimating our customer's bills,” explains David Wylie, a communications spokesperson with FortisBC.

“Their latest bill will be based on actual consumption. So, some of our customers may see a high bill, some of our customers may see a lower bill to show the difference of actual energy used.”

Wylie says customers should be prepared to see more usage in tier two of the new billing system as the combined electricity used, above and beyond what Fortis had initially estimated, has now become due. Unfortunately that means many people will be lumped into the more expensive tier, but that should be sorted out by March.

“What we’re going to be doing is maximizing the customer’s benefit under the residential conservation rate,” says Wylie.

“So we will be making sure that tier one energy use is fully maximized and our customers who do see a result in their favour will see that credit to them on their March bill.”

Fortis says none of this should come as a surprise, as they notified customers once the lockout began that they would be estimating energy consumption.

Wylie says Fortis posted notices on their website and included an article in their newsletter, encouraging customers to contact them if anyone felt their electricity use was being estimated too high or too low

“So now what’s going to happen with the verified reads and actual consumption, we will ensure that our customer’s do have the maximum use under the tier one rate and if that works in their favour they will see credit in the march billing cycle.”

All of this has done little to dissuade angry residents from voicing their opinions for what they feel are artificially high readings that are erroneously being passed on to the consumer. Readers say these excessive bills (whether later corrected or not) can be very damaging to those living on fixed incomes.

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