Enbridge undercharging leads to budget-busting bills

July 25 2010 by Ellen Roseman

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.

70 comments

  1. Mary

    Aug 17 2010

    Enbridge mailed me my bill and said i owed them $700. I was never on the budget billing plan and have proof that they goofed.

    My Mom is not on it either and pays as she uses….she pays her bills at the bank so she has stamped proof that she paid. They still say she owes money!!!

    Don’t pay unless you are sure. Enbridge is a very corrupt company. Where can we take our complaints?

  2. Matt

    Aug 26 2010

    I just got my bill saying I owe about $550. Which like many others is an amount I simple can’t afford to pay. Even with Enbridge’s 3 month payment plan.

    The thing that baffles me about this is that a years worth of my bills were cancelled, “adjusted” and rebilled. So my account today shows 12 bills.

    I called and waited on hold for about 20 mins, before getting someone, which I was fully expecting. The guy said I spread the amount over 3 payments, and I said that wouldn’t help me much. I also started question about how and why they decided to re-bill for the year. He couldn’t answer the questions and said a supervisor would call me back within 48 hours.

    Within an hour I got a call from a supervisor, who did her best to explain things to me. She also said I would be getting a detailed statement from Enbridge about what they did with my bills.

    After explaining my situation to clear up this $550 and asking what I could afford to pay on a monthly basis, she helped me spread the payment over an 11month period, interested free, penalty free.

    So anyone needing to spread this bill across more than their 3 months, ask to speak to a supervisor. And like someone else said, try and keep your anger and frustration in tact. Be polite and courteous with the rep and they will be a lot more willing to help you. it’s good to keep into perspective too, that the onus at the end of the day is on you the customer. I trusted enbridge’s BBP and end got screwed. haha. I should’ve been watching my bills much more closely and making sure it was inline. And in the case where you noticed an error and Enbridge wouldn’t adjust things for you mid year, you could have been setting aside the money you knew you would get billed.

    That being said, I don’t like how enbridge is handling this. I don’t like that a years worth of my bill were cancelled, adjusted then billed back to my in one day. It makes trying to reconcile what Enbridge is doing VERY confusing and difficult. I’m am going to be looking at my bills and the information I get from Enbridge very carefully and try to make sense of it. Because of the way Enbridge is handling this and how they are being a big secretive about whats going on, I have very little trust in what I’m being billed.

    This whole thing should result in a big audit of policies, procedures and peoples accounts and whats being charged, at the expense of Enbridge to verify that everything is on the up and up.

  3. Laura Sky

    Aug 30 2010

    I sent a copy of the letter that I wrote to Ellen to the ombudsman at Enbridge today. I had a phone call from the ombudsman within the hour. Unlike the CSR, the ombudsman had the authority to solve the problem- and had a direct phone line to facilitate this solution rather than an overloaded 877 number which is an obstacle to customers wanting to resolve this problem.

    We came to a one year repayment plan and they offered me a $100 credit. This was helpful and appreciated, but did not compensate for the worry. stress, frustration at the sheer injustice of this way of doing business.

    After reading all these messages, I have begun to wonder how Enbridge actually calculated what we are all alleged to owe them. Is this just a cash grab? Are there provincial regulations to curb these billing practices? Do we have the makings of a class action suit?

    This has been a terrible process, tinged with helplessness until my anger got me motivated to make a difference. Thanks to Ellen Roseman for validating my concerns and to all of you for participating in voicing our indignation.

  4. E. Francis

    Sep 1 2010

    It is now August and my adjustment is now due. I have tried to contact Enbridge for an entire month now without success.

    I have never been able to get a service rep. Each time I get so far as to punch in my account number, the automated voice says my account is up to date and current, and if I recently received a notice about any outstanding balance, to ignore it, or something to that effect.

    I have sent them an email asking that my balance be divided over a 3-month period to make it easier on me financially (single, no job, limited income).

    I particularly asked that my request be forwarded to the Billing dept. And what do you know? I get my bill for August indicating that the full amount is now due!!!

    It makes me sick to see the ineptitude of corporations whose management and staff make the big bucks and still can’t get their crap right.

    Way to go, Canada. Is it any wonder the world is in such a mess?

  5. E. Francis

    Sep 1 2010

    Sorry that should have been September’s bill not August.

  6. Linda

    Sep 18 2010

    I find it amazing that I am the only person who received a bill over $1,700!!!!!!!

    I was shocked. I phoned Enbridge as the bill didn’t tell me how much they were going to bill and they told me I should have done the math of the 3 columns on the back of \the letter\ they sent us, telling us that there is going to be an increase.

    Who has an extra $1,700 in their account?????? I can’t figure out what to do because they won’t do a thing. I have never been so angry and frustated.

    They should have looked at it before and not waited until it was such a significant amount.

  7. Julie

    Feb 15 2011

    For two months, I have been trying to find out why we are not receiving bills. Since my husband’s name is on the account, they will not give me information.

    He has since called and told them to give me info. They put me on hold for ridiculous amounts of time!

    I would think that when they get calls from clients stating that they are not receiving bills, they would look into it at some point. Instead, they wait until my husband calls and tells them it’s “okay” for them to give information to me.

    I then call and I’m put on hold for over 10 minutes! They then have to send a case # to their billing department to open our account and find out why we have not been receiving our bills.

    They are unable to tell us what we owe them. They “understand” and “realize my frustration,” but will take care of the issue. We should receive a bill within 14 days…if not, please call them back.

    They “offer” to let us pay in installments…(how absolutely wonderful of them!!).

    Why are they expecting their clients to do their accounts receivable/payable for them? We pay enough that this is definitely covered.

    I’m sooo frustrated!

  8. Julie

    Feb 15 2011

    Oh…and….I asked to be connected to their survey…what a joke! First I had to call back and ask again…then it is set up to be so skewed it’s ridiculous!

    Yep…they really “appreciate” their customers’ views…ha!

  9. EXT

    Feb 19 2011

    I see all the problems that customers are having. Most do not realize that they are not talking to Enbridge employees when they call to complain.

    In 1999, Enbridge took over Consumers’ Gas and outsourced every department that they could. From a former do it yourself company that wrote their own billing software and prepared their own bills, they now outsource all of this, and cannot do many things that were possible formerly.

    It is now a shell of a company and has lost the tight control it used to have over all aspects of its business. Now the owner, Enbridge of Calgary, only concerns itself with profits.

    I was a former 40 year employee, so this is how I know.

  10. Andy

    Mar 16 2011

    Hi – reading all this just makes me furious. My January 2011 bill was $161, which it had been for 4 months – stable – although I hvae been charged for 2 water heaters in error repeatedly. A February bill did not come but then I got 2 bills yesterday on March 15 (dated March 7 – which thanked me for last month’s January payment – and March 9). The March 7th bill said I must pay $281 and the March 9th bill said I owed about $550 because I did not pay the last bill that was sent on the same day. Looks like they changed the look of the bill and missed sending out the February bill in a timely fashion. Of more concern is that they jacked up my monthly BBP by about $100 a month. I have no idea what these clowns are doing but will be checking my meter regularly now. DO NOT TRUST THEM, which is obvious from what I am reading on the website. Perhaps a petition is in order to the Ontario Gov’t….

  11. Dan Buchanan

    Jun 7 2011

    Here’s some interesting history from this ‘company’:

    http://www.ontariotenants.ca/natural_gas/articles/2004/ts-04d23.phtml

  12. cherrytreegirl

    Aug 20 2011

    All these posts are from 2010. Has anyone had problems this summer (2011)?

    I moved into a new condo in Nov. 2010 and for the first time experienced paying separate bills for gas. I thought that the bill amounts i received over the winter were correct, and continued to use gas according to what i can afford on my monthly budget (i have a gas fireplace).

    Now all of a sudden i am stuck with the surplus costs ($628). That’s actually half of my monthly budget.

    The worst thing is that i haven’t even been living at home for 2 months, and the previous 3 months was only using gas for my stove about twice a month.

    So basically i am being charged, what is for me, a difficult large amount of money from Enbridge, despite not even having really used my gas for 5 months.

    I think i will be getting off BPP.

    I thought that i was doing what was required of me, paying my monthly bills and keeping track of the costs. Since when is it considered normal for people to have to look into the possible ways large companies could be screwing you, just because?

    I read the information i was given by Enbridge. How could i know it was also my job to be tracking amounts vs. costs, adding up totals, etc. Isn’t that their job?

    I guess i am a very disillusioned young person, but my inexperienced sense is that there is something wrong with this picture.

  13. Dave

    Sep 30 2011

    Well here is one anyone would have a fit over, our gas bill came in last week at $10,372.00 that is large. It was told that the meter was not working right and it was replaced in November 2010 and that we would be billed this amount for the miss readings from January 2009 till July 2011. Now if the meter was replaced in November 2010 why was it not read till now and why did it take 9 months to come to a conclusion to bill us this ridiculous amount? No word from enbridge yet. just a letter appologizing for the inconvience. Any comments to help would be greatly appriciated.

  14. Liz

    Oct 1 2011

    Well its october 2011 and it seems that Enbridge have underestimated my BPP bill! Received a credit for $90 then a bill for $700 ! (they had kindly applied the $90 credit to the $700 bill to make it easier for me…. a week later I receive another bill from them for $600. So when I check the meter reading against their reading on the bill to my horrors they have charged me for using more than what the meter reads. After one very angry phonecall to their service center, my bill has been ripped up…..but they can’t tell me how much my new bill will be. I wait with baited breathe and prepare myself for a fight. Irony of the whole situation was that they gave me a cheque for $350 last year…Surely, if this was their mistake, should we have to pay for it? Can anyone offer any suggestions?

  15. Zee

    Mar 5 2016

    Hi Ellen,

    I just wanted to share the experience I had dealing with Enbridge. I moved into my new home in Spring 2015, and my first bill after 2 months shocked me. It was around $600 for my tiny townhouse.

    I called Enbridge and tried explaining to them that it was a mistake, that it was impossible for me to use that much gas in such a small townhouse and especially in the summer. Enbridge agreed that it wasn’t possible and promised to investigate this problem for me and report back.

    That investigation took a month, and they still sent me a bill for the previous month for $60 of gas usage plus the $600 remaining balance from the previous bill. I called Enbridge again and tried to explain to the billing department customer service representative that it wasn’t possible to use $600 of natural gas for two months when my usual usage is between $60-$90 a month, which I proved with the previous month’s usage especially when my home is outfitted with high efficiency equipment.

    Enbridge again placed my case under investigation and this repeated 2 more times until in the middle of January I called and again tried to prove these ridiculous charges wrong. The customer service representative officially and without compromise told me that Enbridge would cease all investigations into my case. I would have to pay the amount of $600 because nothing was wrong with their calculations.

    They said the only thing that may have caused this dilemma was that it was a brand new home. The builder may have used the gas before we moved in and put that amount on our shoulders.

    Enbridge gave me a month to try and fix this problem with the builder. If not, I would be liable to pay the amount and late payment charges.

    I called the builder about my problem. They asked me to forward them all the documents in order to investigate the situation and I did. It took them more than 3 weeks, and with my reminder, they told me they had nothing to do with the outstanding bill and they didn’t understand what I was talking about. It was not possible!

    At first, I didn’t know what to do. Soon, with the support of my family and kind people from the internet, I started to act. I sent letters to different organisations. Everyone told me, ‘Sorry we can’t help you!’ Everyone, but the Enbridge Ombudsman Riina Pearson (416) 495-5484. She fixed this problem within 24 hours!

    She PROVED that the builders DID indeed use my gas and tried to push me to pay for it! Thankfully, we have people like Riina Pearson to help small people like us to deal with big companies. I hope, by writing this letter, that my story helps to reach out to someone in a similar situation.

    Regards,
    Zee