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$1,050 BC Hydro bill upsets Cowichan customer

Cowichanian Justin Point is angry about the $1,050 BC Hydro bill he received while out of the country for three months. - Peter W. Rusland
Cowichanian Justin Point is angry about the $1,050 BC Hydro bill he received while out of the country for three months.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Justin Point and BC Hydro brass are baffled about the Duncanite's whopping recent bill.

Point got home from Brazil to find a $1,050 hydro bill from — despite being away for that three-month billing period.

"They said they'd suspend my account until they investigate," he fumed, blaming what he believed was a smart meter. So Point was surprised when Hydro staff said Tuesday his side of his duplex carries an old analog meter.

Still, neither meter would explain his sky-high invoice.

"I've had no bill exceeding $400 in the past four years," Point said of the bill that's about 20 times his usual tab. "My bills are usually around $50, as I burn wood to heat my house in the winter, and I am very energy-conscious.

"The rep at their office was steadfast in his explanation about their meters not making mistakes; he simply refused to believe what I was telling him — that is, until I explained to him that I was on vacation in Brazil. I was away for the entire period listed in their invoice. How will they rectify this?"

Hydro's Ted Olynyk agreed the tally on Point's analog bill is mystery, and requires further investigation by his staff.

"It's an accurate reading, and the meter's functioning properly. It could be wiring issues."

Unlikely, noted Point.

"There been no wiring work here since this cabin was built three or four years ago."

Olynyk added Point's invoice should be less with an analog unit. "If anything, it would slow down."

He explains such mistakes can be dodged with smart meters.

"When (smart meter) information is sent, we're eliminating misreads."

And Hydro staff can "walk customers through steps about their billing, and determine what the (error) cause is."

Point wasn't pleased with those steps.

"They still refused to admit any wrongdoing. I asked them if they would have returned my money if I had paid the bill, and they said they would have made the correction in the next meter reading."

That left him dubious about smart meters Hydro brass insists are accurate.

"We've had about 387 new smart meters tested because people disputed their accuracy," said Olynyk, "and all came back without a problem."

Meters across the country — for instance, gas and electric units — are governed by Measurements Canada, he noted. That's cold comfort to Point.

"This begs the question: how would they have known about the erroneous meter reading? The answer is simply they could not, nor would not have known."

Furthermore, "it makes me wonder what future meter readings will be."

"If they're even a little off, it's very concerning," said Point. "How many other people are not paying attention and just paying their bills?"

Olynyk urged folks with billing concerns to call 1-800-bchydro for help and advice.

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