Customer Service Rules for Electricity
The Ontario Energy Board developed a list of rules to ensure all consumers across the province are treated fairly. No matter where you live in the province, you can expect a similar level of service from your electricity utility or unit sub-metering provider (If you live in a condo or apartment that has its own individual meter and your bill comes from a company other than the local utility, you are a customer of a “unit sub-metering provider”).
Note: There are some exceptions to these rules for consumers whose income falls below a certain limit. Learn whether you qualify as a low-income consumer, what benefits are available and how to access them.
- Security Deposits
- Equal Payment Plans
- Late Payment Charges
- Overdue / Arrears Payment Plan
Electricity companies will often ask new customers for a security deposit. Security deposits protect you by reducing the amount of bad debt your local utility is exposed to. That in turn helps maintain an efficient energy sector, where all customers receive a reliable supply of energy at the most reasonable cost.
Typically, those customers are ones who have no payment history with another distributor. They may also have a poor payment history, or fail to show the utility a satisfactory credit check (obtained at the customer’s own expense).
|You may be asked for a deposit if:||You are exempt if:|
|NEW CUSTOMERS||You have no payment history with another utility||You can demonstrate 1 year of good payment history with another utility|
|You have poor payment history with another utility|
|You cannot show the utility a satisfactory credit record (at your expense)|
|EXISTING CUSTOMERS||You have received more than 1 disconnection notice over the past year||You are a qualified low-income customers (in some cases)|
|You have bounced more than 1 cheque|
|You have failed to pay more than one pre-authorized payment|
|You have been disconnected over the past year|
|You have been subject to a collect trip by the utility|
|You have had your deposit applied to outstanding debt and must pay it back|
Deposits Are Not Optional
You do not have a choice whether to pay or not. A utility can disconnect your service or refuse to connect you if the deposit is not paid.
Deposits are calculated using a customer’s recent utility bills. The maximum deposit amount a utility can ask for is laid out below:
|Billing Frequency:||Maximum Deposit amount:|
|Monthly||2.5 times your average bill|
|Bi-Monthly||1.75 times your average bill|
|Quarterly||1.5 times your average bill|
If you do not have a history with another utility, the company will use average bills from the residence you are moving into.
If your electricity usage goes up, the utility can ask for an additional security deposit as long as it does not go over the maximum amount.
As a residential customer, you can ask to pay your deposit in as many as 6 equal monthly instalments. The electricity utility must allow this.
Getting Your Deposit Back
Residential customers with one year of good payment history will have their deposits returned.
Non-residential customers using less than 50kW must have five years of good payment history.
If you move or close your account with a utility, they have up to 6 weeks to return the deposit. The utility is required to pay interest on the deposit, which is calculated at the Bank of Canada’s prime business rate less 2%. Interest is paid once every 12 months if the deposit is retained.
Equal Payment Plans
Utilities must offer their customers the option to join what is called an equal monthly payment plan.
How it works:
- Your utility will add up your bills for the last 12 months and divide the total by 12 to get the average. That is the amount you will be billed each month
- You may also have to sign up to have your payments automatically withdrawn from your bank account
- You will be able to choose from at least two dates in a month to have automatic payments withdrawn from your bank account
- Your utility will review your equal monthly payment plan at least once per calendar year to make sure you have not paid too much or too little
If you owe your utility money for unpaid bills, you may not be allowed to join an equal monthly billing plan.
If you live in a condo or apartment that has its own individual meter and your bill comes from a company other than your utility, you are a customer of a “unit sub-metering provider”. Unit sub-meter providers do not have to offer equal billing to their customers.
Late Payment Charges
Interest Rate Limits
All Ontario utilities charge customers a late payment penalty of 1.5% per month – the maximum allowed by the Ontario Energy Board.
Compounded monthly, that rate works out to 19.56% per year.
Pay Your Bill Promptly
Late payment charges will begin 16 days after your bill is issued.
|Issue Date||A bill's Issue Date is defined as three days after it was printed. If the bill was emailed, the Issue Date is defined as the date it was sent.|
|Received||A bill payment, if mailed, is considered received by the utility three days before the company actually receives it.
If paying at a bank or by credit card, the payment is considered received when the financial institution acknowledges it. Occasionally, that will not be the same day it was paid.
|Due Date||A due date scheduled on a weekend or holiday is considered the next business day.|
Late Payment Rules Help All Consumers
Late payment penalties benefit consumers by encouraging prompt payment of bills. That, in turn, reduces additional costs to utilities … and lowers delivery rates for all consumers.
Overdue / Arrears Payment Plan
Arrears Management – A Payment Plan
As a final step before disconnection, your electricity company must give you the chance to go on a payment plan. This payment plan is known as an Arrears Payment Agreement.
Designing Your Specific Payment Plan
The payment amount and schedule is calculated through the following process:
- If you have a security deposit with the company, they must use it toward the amount owing.
- The electricity company will charge you a down payment. The down payment can be as much as 15% of the total amount you owe. You will also have to pay any additional service charges (such as a reconnection charge) on top of that.
- The company will then calculate the new total you owe.
Next, the utility will determine the amount of time you have to pay it.
|If you owe:||Then your payment plan timeline will be:|
|Less than twice your average monthly bill||At least 5 months|
|More than twice your average monthly bill||At least 10 months|
Getting Your Power Reconnected
If you’ve entered into a payment plan after your power has been disconnected, you can generally expect your power to be reconnected within two business days. In about 15% of cases, it will take longer than that.
Don’t Miss Payments
Once you begin making monthly payments, you must still pay your regular electricity bill. If you miss more than one payment on either the plan or your bill, the electricity company can cancel the payment plan. They can then take steps to disconnect you.
You May Not Qualify
If you have already been on a monthly payment plan for unpaid bills in the past 2 years, the electricity company may refuse to allow another one. They may move to disconnect your service in that case.
If you are a low-income consumer, these rules may be slightly different for you.
Read more about low-income customer service rules.
Timely Bill Payment
If you fail to pay your electricity bill, your service could be disconnected by the company that provides your electricity. They can also disconnect power if you fail to pay a required security deposit. If you have paid a security deposit, it will be applied to the amount you owe before your electricity is disconnected.
The company must give you at least 10 days’ notice before you are disconnected. If you inform the company that a social service agency is checking to see if you qualify for assistance, the company will delay disconnecting your service for up to 21 days.
To avoid disconnection, it is important to contact your electricity company as soon as you receive that notice. Do not delay.
- The quickest way to keep your electricity connected is by paying your outstanding balance.
- PAYMENT PLAN
If you cannot pay the amount you owe, you have the option of setting up a payment plan. The plan, known as an Arrears Payment Agreement, will allow you to repay your debt over a period of time. It does not excuse you from paying your hydro debt or from paying your new bill.
If you fail to pay your outstanding debt and fail to agree on a payment plan, the company can then act to disconnect you.
The electricity company must make a reasonable effort to contact you one last time at least 48 hours before disconnection. They can do this in person or by telephone. Once they do this, the process is nearing an end.
You should make sure the utility has up-to-date contact information on file. When it comes time to contact you 48 hours before a disconnection, the utility is considered to have made a reasonable effort whether or not they actually get a hold of you.
LAST CHANCE TO AVOID DISCONNECTION
You may also be able to pay off your outstanding balance when a utility worker arrives to cut off your power. According to Ontario Energy Board rules, the company must have staff available to accept your payment at that time. They must also accept credit cards. If the company chooses, it can accept other forms of payment too.
However, the utility does not have to inform you the disconnection is about to happen. Do not wait for them to show up.
DISCONNECTION AND RECONNECTION FEES
The electricity company will charge you a fee for making the trip to your residence. The fee is typically $30.
If your power gets cut off, it will cost: $65 to reconnect during regular hours* $185 to reconnect after hours*
*In some cases, the cost will be higher.
FROM PAYMENT TO LIGHTS ON
Once you’ve paid your bill in full or entered into a payment plan agreement, you should generally expect the electricity company to reconnect your service within two business days. In about 15% of cases, it will take the company longer than two days.
There are some exceptions to these rules for consumers whose income falls below a certain limit. Learn whether you qualify as a low-income consumer, what benefits are available and how to access them.Help for Low-Income Consumers (LEAP)
Electricity Distributor Performance Reporting / Distributor Scorecards
The OEB measures how well Ontario's electricity distributors are performing each year. Performance reporting is designed to encourage electricity utilities to operate effectively, continually seek ways to improve productivity and focus on improvements that their customers value.
Page last updated 2016-01-13