March 17, 2015 - 2:28 PM
KELOWNA – Days after angry Kelowna residents gathered outside Premier Christy Clarks riding office to protest unfair power bills, many people are coming forward with stories about being massively over billed.
Katie Krebs lives in Kelowna with her husband and two kids. She says last December and January, Fortis B.C. sent them a bill for more than double what it should have been. To add insult to injury, Krebs says she was belittled, questioned and threatened with disconnection when she pointed out the error.
“They asked us if there’s something going on at our house that they should know about,” she says. “Do you think if I had a grow op I would be calling them in tears complaining that I can’t feed my kids or pay my mortgage this month because of my power bill?”
On a Facebook page dedicated to gathering support for a petition to Christy Clark, seven different posters claimed to have been overbilled by Fortis in the last year.
Fortis B.C. spokesperson David Wylie says the company does not record that kind of information. He says in cases where bills are higher than expected they work with the customer to first try and figure out why. He says while it is possible the meter was not read correctly, there are other factors that are more likely.
“Maybe there is something that they were doing differently during that period,” he says. “Maybe it’s using baseboard heating a little more than they did the year before and weather patterns can affect that. This past November it was unseasonably cold and that kind of thing can have an impact, especially for customers who are heating their homes with electricity.”
Rose Sexsmith is the owner of Rose’s Pub in downtown Kelowna. Her house is heated with gas and she doesn’t have an air conditioner, so she was shocked to receive a $1,300 bill last summer.
“I’m really conscious of the energy I use,” she says. “I am still surprised to get a $200 bill because I don’t use that much electricity. I keep my thermostat set to 20, I use gas for my furnace and stove. I knew ($1,300) had to be a mistake.”
She says after writing and phoning Fortis B.C., they had her take a picture of her meter. They eventually admitted to making a mistake and her bill was reduced to under $200. The next month however, the same thing happened but this time for $1,100. Again she was asked to take a picture and again her bill was reduced by 80 per cent.
“I can afford this but what about all these people who can’t afford these mistakes?” she says. As the founder of 100+ Women Who Care, a group that raises money for various local causes, she says she is hearing more and more stories of low income families being forced under water by their power bills.
“There are so many people that are getting overcharged,” she says. “And why not? Who is their competition? I didn’t think monopolies were allowed in Canada.”
Krebs says even though she was able to eventually get through to Fortis, she still feels helpless and has no idea how much money to set aside for future bills.
“I think it’s ridiculous that this company is allowed to be the only provider and they can charge whatever they want and there is nothing we can do about it,” she says. “We can’t live without heat in Canada and they’re taking advantage of the monopoly they have.”
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015