Hydro One responds to poor public service accusations

- TORONTO, ONTARIO -- The Ontario Ombudsman André Marin has accused Hydro One of “extorting” their customers by sending out letters this winter threatening to cut off electricity to customers late in paying their bills—even though it’s against company policy. The Ontario Ombudsman is an independent officer of the Legislature who, on behalf of the public, investigates complaints about the province's government services.

In response to the Ombudsman's media briefing earlier today, Hydro One provided the following update to the media.




Significant improvements have been made since the implementation of the Company's new customer information system in May 2013 a change which led to billing issues for about 6 of its 1.3 million customers. The Company is committed to continue to work with the Ombudsman to resolve all issues brought forward. Any customer who experienced a billing disruption as a consequence of our new billing system implementation has been excluded from the collections process for a year.

Customers with incorrect bills will not receive disconnection notices.

"We have come a long way. In the past year, we have restored service levels at our call centre and performance of our billing system to levels higher than before the transition to our new billing system two years ago," said Carm Marcello, President and CEO, Hydro One. "Our relationship with our customers goes far beyond the bill. With the technical issues behind us, we are now revisiting all of our customer interactions with the goal of transforming our business into a truly customer caring organization."

Recently, the Ombudsman also referenced our disconnection process:

- Hydro One is reviewing and revising its disconnection communications to ensure that they are a clear and accurate reflection of our policies and easy for our customers to understand. We will work with the Ombudsman to resolve this issue.

- Disconnection is always a last resort.

- We do not disconnect during the winter months.

- Regardless of the time of year, we do communicate with customers to encourage them to keep their accounts current.

- Hydro One's process for working with customers in arrears has multiple stages and notifications to make customers aware of the actions they can take to keep their accounts current.

- We also inform them of the help and programs that are available if they are in financial difficulty.

- Managing credit and collections processes is about striking the right balance between compassion for individual hardship and fairness for all customers.

- Hydro One has brought in a North American expert on credit and collections to analyze our practices and make recommendations. His initial assessment is that Hydro One's collections practices are consistent with electric utility industry, but Hydro One provides customers with more time and leeway to manage their accounts than is typical in the industry.

- We hear the Ombudsman's concerns and Hydro One would like to sit down with him and write the disconnection letter to his satisfaction.

At this time, Hydro One's customer service operations and billing system are performing well. As of today, the Company has:

- Completed 99 of the 3,395 complaints received from the Ombudsman's office. The Ombudsman's office has told Hydro One that the remaining 6,005 complaints will not be transferred to Hydro One.

- Reduced the number of customers who have not received a bill for a prolonged period of time: less than 0.1: improved from 5 475 from 53,495.

- Reduced the number of customers who have received only estimated bills for a prolonged period of time: 0.4 from 3 4,681 from 30,899.

- Improved first call resolution to 85 from 75.

- Communicated with more than 60,000 customers through three teletownhalls and an online survey seeking their advice on how to improve service.


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