by Josh del Sol, producer & director of Take Back Your Power
On February 4, Ontario Ombudsman André Marin announced a formal 9-month investigation into Hydro One, the largest utility in the province.
As of last Friday the ombudsman had received 4,381 complaints, by far the most on a single government organization in the almost four-decade history of his office. And as a result, two senior Hydro One executives have just quit.
In his February 4 announcement, Marin said the focus of the investigation is to find out “whether Hydro One’s customer billing practices are transparent. And second, whether Hydro One’s process for responding to customer billing concerns is timely and effective.”
Hydro One completed their deployment of ‘smart’ meters on 1.3 million homes and businesses throughout the province of Ontario in 2010. They were one of the first North American utilities to do so, along with Hydro Ottawa who has been harshly criticized for already needing to replace ‘smart’ meters en masse.
Marin issued a challenge to passive Ontarians, saying they have been willing to be “socially re-engineered as electrical-trained seals — doing their laundry at certain times to avoid excessive billing.”
“But on the other hand, they want accuracy in their billing. And all to often, we hear cases where people don’t get bills for months and months. In other instances, people wake up with $10,000 to $20,000 skimmed off their bank account by error – they didn’t owe that money. And in that case, Hydro One will simply say, ‘We can’t return that money. We’ll simply give you a future credit’.”
Source press conference video:
“The stories we’re hearing will be familiar to many of you in the media,” said Marin. “Stories of huge, unexplained catchup bills, multiple bills, or estimated bills with no rhyme or reason. And when customers try to get answers from Hydro One they are stymied — just as my office has often been stymied when we intervened. The response to our queries is anemic. Sometimes it’s like wrestling with a slippery pig and that’s why my heart goes out to those average citizens that try to take on the Goliath that is Hydro One.”
Marin seemed to give an indication there may be further investigations related to issues which have arisen with the implementation of ‘smart’ metering. “We’ve started with these two narrow issues. If need be, we’ll do a second Hydro investigation.”
As we’ve uncovered in Take Back Your Power, it’s obvious now that this virus of corruption is ubiquitous and in every utility in the western world who has deployed ‘smart’ meters — and it extends far beyond corrupt and illegal billing practices. And like Marin, who couldn’t find anyone to speak up from the utility, our film-making team could not find a single utility executive who was willing to go on camera.
The story seems to be following the same scandalous script in utility culture everywhere: price-gouging the customer, unable to resolve issues, continuing with ‘smart’ meter deployments against consent, zero accountability.
Notice to utilities: keep sowing ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,’ and you will reap one hell of a day of reckoning. The bigger they are, the harder they will fall. And unless you begin to awaken from your corporatist stupor, by your unholy levels of corruption you will spectacularly topple and disintegrate.
“We need to peel the layers off the onion and see what’s beneath this. What is it that’s causing all these problems?” asked Marin.
“Anyone who has information relevant to this investigation is encouraged to complain to my office. Our website is www.ombudsman.on.ca.”