High bill concerns: update
In recent weeks, there has been increased attention around electricity bills and new meters. We investigate every customer concern about billing and the vast majority of these concerns are resolved through our call centre as our customer service agents are able to walk customers through some common reasons for higher than expected bills.
If a bill cannot be explained by referring to past use, our customer service agents will check to see if there could have been a human imputting error during the meter reading – right now we are reading meters manually and sometimes a mistake can be made when entering the number. The agents will also check if there was a bill estimating error, which can sometimes be the case for people on Equal Payment Plans.
If we can’t identify the source by checking billing information, we will work with the customer to explore other possibilities like the addition of new major appliances or home renovations. Whether the meter is an older analog meter or a newer smart meter, if there is a possibility that the meter might be a source of the problem, we will pull that meter for testing and check the customer's bill for any anomalies.
Like any piece of electronic equipment and despite the best quality assurance practices, it is possible in rare circumstances for various components of a meter to malfunction. Our job is to find these units before they inconvenience a customer. If a malfunctioning meter is found, we will replace it and rectify the situation with the customer.
If customers have any questions or concerns about their bills, they can sign up for an online account to compare current electricity use with previous years. Or, they can call our customer service team.
Here’s a look at some real-life customer cases about higher than expected electricity bills. We hope this information helps answer our customers' questions about some of the stories they have been hearing about and some of the questions they may have about their own bills.
Kamloops – misread meter
Customer thought her smart meter caused her electricity consumption to increase by 293 per cent.
BC Hydro’s records confirmed an extraordinary increase in usage and further investigation revealed that this customer’s consumption had been inaccurately recorded during a manual reading of her meter. Meters operate on the same basis as a car’s odometer: they continue to accrue as consumption continues to register. Therefore, if a meter is over- or under-read in a billing cycle, it will be clear when the next meter reading takes place. A follow-up meter reading showed a mistake by BC Hydro and the customer’s consumption was corrected.
- Jan to Mar 2009: daily average of 7 kilowatt hours
- Jan to Mar 2010: daily average of 8 kilowatt hours
- Jan to Mar 2011: daily average of 8 kilowatt hours
- ERROR: Jan to Mar 2012: daily average of 33 kilowatt hours
- REVISED: Jan to Mar 2012: daily average of 7 kilowatt hours
Powell River - estimated bill
This customer thought his bill went up 65 per cent.
An analysis of his consumption over the past five years shows that his current year’s usage is consistent with usage in the past. However, in one billing period, his consumption had to be estimated because BC Hydro could not get to his meter to read it. When the meter was read at a later date, it was determined that his estimate had been too low and the next bill issued accounted for all electricity consumed.
Daily average use:
- November - March 2012 = 110 kilowatt hours
- January 2011 = 98 kilowatt hours
- January 2010 = 97 kilowatt hours
- January 2009 = 110 kilowatt hours
- January 2008 = 132 kilowatt hours
- January 2007 = 126 kilowatt hours
Surrey - has analog meter
This customer thought an increase in his bill was connected to his new meter.
The billing period the customer complained about (Oct. 4 to Dec. 2, 2011) was prior to the installation of his new meter on Dec. 10, 2011.
BC Hydro customer care representatives walked him through some of the ways he can reduce his usage.
Nanaimo - human error
Numerous customers in one neighbourhood noticed higher than normal electricity bills.
All meters (old and new) are currently read manually and it was determined that BC Hydro incorrectly billed these customers after their meters were read incorrectly. The error was fixed.
Victoria - bill was lower and daily use dropped after smart meter installation
This customer thought that his bill had “doubled” to $885. However, it was determined that this customer’s bill was lower this year than it had been the same time last year.
Also, the customer thought his smart meter had been installed in December. In fact, it wasn’t installed until Feb. 1 and his recorded energy use dropped in the weeks after the installation:
- Daily average = 135 kilowatt hours in the 42 days BEFORE smart meter installation
- Daily average = 119 kilowatt hours in the 20 days AFTER smart meter installation
Smart meter installed: Feb. 1, 2012
- Dec. 21, 2011 to Feb. 20, 2012: daily average of 130 kilowatt hours (bill: $800.85)
- Dec. 21, 2010 to Feb. 21, 2011: daily average of 175 kilowatt hours (bill: $988.29)
- Dec. 21, 2009 to Feb. 19, 2010: daily average of 113 kilowatt hours (bill: $625.72)
- Dec. 19, 2008 to Feb. 19, 2009: daily average of 193 kilowatt hours (bill: $896.32)
Vancouver - Equal Payment Plan adjustment
This customer suspected that a higher than normal bill could be connected to her new meter.
Upon investigation, it was revealed that the customer is on an Equal Payment Plan designed to ensure her monthly payments are the same every month. The customer received a “catch-up” bill near the end of the year as more electricity was consumed throughout the year than what she had paid for through her equalized payments.
- Customer moved into residence in October 2010. In January 2011, her payment was set at $35/month. Payment was based on previous consumption and it was discovered that her unit had been unoccupied for some time.
- In July 2011, BC Hydro re-checked the payment plan and found that monthly instalments were too low. The customer’s monthly payment was adjusted to $61/month.
As a courtesy, BC Hydro tested the customer’s meter, did a breaker test and did a comparison to similar units. All tests came back fine and her consumption was consistent with other customers in the building.
Richmond - Higher use, different rate
This customer thought his meter was “not working properly” because his bill had increased to $241.
The customer used more electricity as the winter has progressed. His increased usage pushed him into the second, higher rate bracket under the conservation rate. The rate for the first block of usage (under 1,350 kilowatt hours, or up to about 22 kilowatt hours per day, for two months) is 6.67 cents per kilowatt hour. The rate for the second block of usage (anything in addition to 1,350 kilowatt hours over the same two months) is 9.62 cents per kilowatt hour.
Vancouver - consumption misunderstood
This customer said his bill went up 60 per cent after his new meter was installed.
A look at this customer’s consumption history shows that his energy use was actually lower after new smart meter was installed.
- Nov to Dec 2011: In the 36 days BEFORE the new meter was installed, consumption was 110 kilowatt hours a day.
- Dec 2011: In the 23 days AFTER his smart meter was installed, consumption dropped to 101 kilowatt hours a day.
- Mar 2012: In the 61 days SINCE then, his consumption was 106 kilowatt hours a day.