Utilities are not known for great customer service. Since their prices are regulated, they’re always trying to cut costs.
Enbridge, a gas utility in Ontario, gets many complaints about recurring billing errors and difficulties in getting them corrected. I talk to their executives on a regular basis.
But the temperature is soaring this month because Enbridge bungled its budget billing plan (BBP), a popular option that lets you divide your payments into equal amounts throughout the year.
As I said in a recent column, Enbridge makes adjustments each July to balance the bills. In most years, customers have a credit or only a small debit to pay in July.
This year, Enbridge set the amounts too low. It has a message here that admits to making the initial mistake and compounding it by not doing a mid-season review to make sure that customers’ bills were on track.
I find the company’s case contradictory. If the monthly BPP instalments were set last August, how did the large variances escape notice for a year? See the Q&A below:
Why did Enbridge not do a review of my plan?
Earlier this year, we did review the overall performance of the Budget Billing plan and the balances appeared to be in line for the majority of our customers at that time.
Come on, Enbridge, this explanation is full of gas. It’s your job to keep things straight for the 800,000 customers in your budget billing plan.
I’m on the BPP myself and waiting to receive my July bill. But when checking my June invoice, I saw a large deficit between gas used and gas billed under the BPP ($318.28). My monthly gas use has dropped from the previous year. If not, the gap would be even wider.
Yes, it’s true that customers can monitor the BPP on their own, using information shown on each bill. But many trusted Enbridge to get it right, as in previous years. They’ll be less trusting in the future.
I’ve been hearing cries of outrage from recipients of the budget-busting July bills. They’re also furious about waiting on hold when they call to make payment arrangements.
We’re currently experiencing higher than normal call volumes related to Budget Billing Plans. We apologize for the long waits and thank you for your patience.
If you made errors affecting hundreds of thousands of customers, then why not hire more temporary call centre staff? Why not keep the phone lines open later in the evenings and on weekends?
Enbridge has extended the weekday hours from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. That’s not enough, according to the people who are calling me in frustration.
This week, the lines stay open until 8 p.m. I called today and spent 23 minutes on hold to speak to a rep. He said my final bill isn’t ready yet, but estimated that I’d owe $236.27 in gas charges that weren’t on my monthly instalments.