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Fortis BC agrees to pay Okanagan woman total cost of damage caused by utility's mistake

Kaleden resident Diane Persoon sits in front of new appliances she needed to purchase after Fortis BC accidently cut her power while she was out of town working. She was originally told she would only receive half her claim, but Fortis reconsidered their decision after Persoon went public with her dispute earlier this week.
February 26, 2016 - 6:30 PM

KALEDEN - A Kaleden woman who was out of pocket over $3,000 due to a mistake by Fortis BC has been told she will receive the full amount the electric utility owes her after all.

Diane Persoon, who works in Fort McMurray, Alta., arrived home after more than a week away at 2 a.m. on Oct. 29 to find she had no power and there was a stench emanating from her residence.

Persson says the bad smell was from a refrigerator and freezer full of rotting food she couldn’t stay in the house and ended up in a motel.

Fortis BC told her the power had been cut off due to a “mix up between meters and addresses.”

Persoon says Fortis BC tried to be helpful once they realized they had made a mistake. They contacted her and asked what needed to be done so she could return her home to normal. She got advice from the company on how to remove odours from her appliances, and got to work emptying them of the putrid meat, disposing of it and then cleaning the units.

She says it took several days, including numerous trips to Penticton and Oliver to try and restore the appliances, and when that failed, to find new ones and get them installed before going back to work.

At one point in her many conversations with Fortis BC representatives she was given the go-ahead to buy new appliances and told a claim form would arrive in the mail.

“I ended up buying smaller, less costly models than what I was replacing,” she says.

Persoon says Fortis expressed surprise at her claim for new appliances, saying they weren’t aware she needed them, and hadn’t given the green light for purchase. The company told her they would let her know by Christmas if they were going to acknowledge responsibility.

However, it wasn’t until Feb. 11 when she got a call from Fortis offering $1,929.45 of the total claim of $3,138.88, allowing 90 per cent of the cost of her lost food and depreciating her appliances considerably. They also insisted she sign a release.

“I told them I wouldn’t accept those terms,” she says, going to the media to tell her story earlier this week.

Since then, Persoon has heard from Fortis, who told her, based on a review of emails and telephone calls, Persoon "could have been misled” to believe she could go and purchase new appliances calling her claim “rare and unusual.”

Persoon says they have agreed to reimburse her fully.

Persoon has no wish to pick a fight with the electrical utility, but believes several mistakes were made in the course of her dealings with the company. She says no one ever talked about depreciation, which she says considerably reduced the value of her 10 year old appliances, neither of which had never given her any trouble.

"Why should the customer be penalized with an additional household expense that wouldn’t have been necessary had Fortis not made their mistake?" she says. "What happens to people who can’t afford the extra cost of new appliances? We were fortunate we were able to purchase.”

Persoon says she didn't bill Fortis for the extra work and extra miles she had to drive to deal with the utility's error.

"They need to understand when they make a mistake... the customer shouldn’t have to pay."

Fortis BC has not responded to calls and messages from iNFOnews.ca.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at sarstad@infonews.ca or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
InfoTel News Ltd

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