Enbridge is apologizing after billing a Toronto man nearly $3,000 and then taking months to resolve what appears to be the company’s mistake.
The energy giant is still investigating the mishap, but the problem could be a faulty gas meter, and an Enbridge representative told CBC Toronto the bill will be withdrawn.
But that’s not the message Andrew Alcock was getting over the past six months.
“They told me that based on my meter readings that is what the bill should be,” Alcock said in an interview.
“It’s just been incredibly painful.”
Since March, when the big bill arrived, Alcock has been navigating Enbridge’s protocol for customer complaints.
He said that’s meant hours on the phone and on hold, exchanging dozens of emails, and even sending faxes.
“I don’t know anyone who uses a fax machine anymore,” Alcock said.
“I’ve spent tons of time trying to get in touch with them. They’re not responsive,” he added.
At one point, Alcock had to hire, at his own expense, a third-party technician to inspect his home and make sure his gas line wasn’t crossed with someone else’s.
Throughout the whole ordeal the whopping utility bill grew to more than $3,000 as Alcock’s regular gas usage was added to it each month.
Only in the past week, and after being contacted by CBC Toronto, has Enbridge indicated to Alcock that he won’t have to pay the bill.
Enbridge spokesperson Tanya Bruckmueller told CBC Toronto the company is still investigating the situation, which is “strange” and “unique,” she says.
“We just don’t know what the problem is so we’re going to pull the gas meter to do some testing.”
Bruckmueller says she understands Alcock’s frustration.
“We’re not happy about how long it took either,” she said.
Alcock lives alone in a two-bedroom condo. A gas stove, water heater and patio barbecue are the only appliances connected to his natural gas line.
For a bill that expensive, Alcock would have had to use three times what the average gas customer consumes in an entire year.
“I almost laughed it off. It’s clearly a mistake. I couldn’t have possibly used $2,700 worth of gas,” Alcock said.
Some readings adjusted
According to Enbridge, Alcock’s gas meter began showing abnormal readings five or six months before the $2,780.75 bill arrived.
Abnormal meter readings do occur, so the company’s system will automatically adjust a customer’s bill back to their normal usage.
“When we look at a customer’s bill and see something abnormal we’ll adjust it and hope that the next meter reading will correct itself,” Bruckmueller explained.
But she says Alcock’s meter didn’t correct itself.
Enbridge stops adjusting bills after five months, at which point Alcock received his big bill
Enbridge replaced Alcock’s gas meter on Monday.
Bruckmueller says part of the delay in figuring out the problem was the fact that Alcock lives in a condo.
She says it’s a slower investigative process.
“The challenge with a condo is that the equipment behind the meter doesn’t belong to us, we don’t have access to that,” Bruckmueller said.
She adds that Enbridge will be changing the way it deals with abnormal readings like the one that occurred with Alcock.
Now automatic adjustments will stop after three months and before sending out an unadjusted bill, Bruckmueller says the usage will be “triple-checked”.
Alcock is happy the bill is finally being resolved, but he still doesn’t understand why there was so much effort and confusion for what he viewed as an obvious error.
“I just figured I would call them up and they’d say ‘Sorry, there was mistake.’ No big deal, everyone moves,” Alcock said.