Rural homeowner wants others to know of power bill woes

By Kirsten Dennis
September 10, 2017 - 11:37pm Updated: September 12, 2017 - 4:15pm

A rural homeowner wants to share a simple message with others living rurally or looking to move - check your power bill and ask questions.

Stacey MacDougall says she’s frustrated after being “passed around” from Epcor to Fortis when inquiring about what her and her husband believed to be a high power bill for the area.

After looking into having solar panels installed by a professional company, MacDougall said she was alerted to the fact that her distribution fees on her power bill were rather high.

“They asked a lot of questions about our property like how many people are living there and what are you doing to be able to determine what we needed. He advised that we call the power company.”

MacDougall made an initial phone call to Epcor who explained the difference between being the billing company versus Fortis setting the distribution charges for things like maintenance of lines and the transformer on the property.

“[Epcor] explained that we were paying for the transformer on our property. No mention of being billed as a farm. So finally when I kept questioning they said we were being billed as a farm, so I asked what that meant.”

What it meant for MacDougall was a billing difference of just over $112 per month.

“I found the definition of [being billed as a farm] on Fortis’ website and it said that the farm rate means you are generating a farm revenue. When I discussed this with the person at Epcor that we are not generating farm revenue and never have she was the one who said they would escalate it and [Fortis] would contact me because Epcor has nothing to do with the line fees.”

Fast-forward a short while and MacDougall said she received the phone call from Fortis and after explaining the situation and new information she was told yes they should be listed as residential. After filling out a form and returning it to Fortis the change was made.

“I asked how it would affect the service to my property and the response was no change to service no change to power coming to your property.”

Fortis informed her they didn’t have to change the transformer or anything it just takes away the farm status so the distribution rates would drop from $135 a month to a mere $23 a month.

MacDougall said her only “red flag” about her bill when they moved in five years ago was the 10 KVA marking on the bill that she hadn’t seen before. “I was told it was the transformer size on the property.”

While making the change from farm to residential, MacDougall said she asked Fortis where on her bill it states the home is a farm or even what options exist for different power rates.

“Fortis said it’s the billing company’s responsibility to ask the questions to the customer. So I called Epcor back and explained and they told me that’s not true it’s not their responsibility to ask questions regarding service to the property.”

Fortis then also advised MacDougall to contact the Utilities Consumer Advocate (UCA), which she did to no avail. “He advised that if I wanted to pursue it any further that I should contact a lawyer.”

MacDougall said she was told that the UCA had dealt with this scenario before and that in the past neither company would admit fault and that it was a “waste of time to try to pursue this through [the UCA].”

After a recent Facebook post was sent via Twitter to Epcor, the company contacted MacDougall saying they would escalate the issue further and see what could be done.

“When I first posted I didn’t even want a refund, I just wanted people to know what we had gone through.”

Since posting, though, MacDougall said nine others have come forward thanking her for raising the issue as they have since found out they were being charged a farm rate to their land when it should have been residential.

“It’s about asking the right questions and knowing who to ask because right now the companies say it’s not in their protocol to ask the clients. We have to take it on ourselves to make sure.”

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