Utility company forced to stop illegal billing, so jacks rates.

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Jeff Ulmer, Nov 1, 2004.

  1. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    Our local electrical utility, Fortis, just sent out a notice stating that its billing practice has been deemed illegal by our federal courts. For residential customers, they offer a discounted rate for those who pay on time. Those who don't pay a 10% penalty, plus 19.8% annual interest. The courts have deemed this illegal, so now Fortis will be charging only the 1.5%/month interest, but is also increasing everyone's bill by 1.25%, regardless of whether they pay on time or not. This looks like just another attempt to bilk customers and make up for revenue they were collecting illegally.

    This company also implemented a $20 "customer charge" every two months when they bought out our former supplier.

    As someone who always pays on time, I feel that I am being further ripped off by this company. It's not like our power, which is an essential service at -40, is any more reliable as a result of these additional charges. We suffer outages at least a couple of times a week, if only briefly.
     
  2. Todd Hochard

    Todd Hochard Cinematographer

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    Start looking around your place, and figuring out ways to "stick it to The Man" by reducing your consumption. You can probably find 10% without affecting your lifestyle at all, more than covering the increase.
     
  3. Moe Maishlish

    Moe Maishlish Supporting Actor

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    I've always wondered what those "customer" charges were all about... a couple of my utilities (gas, electricity, etc.) include some kind of B.S. "customer" charge that doesn't really make any sense.

    It's amazing, especially when it comes to my gas bill. I'll pay $20 for the gas, a $10 customer charge, and a $15 "delivery" charge.... [​IMG] not that any of these extra charges are actually explained anywhere.

    It's like when I went to buy my car, and to make extra money (after I bargained down the MSRP) they tried to tack on an "advertising" fee, which was a total B.S. fee. They explained it as the customer paying for the advertising that got them to buy the car. I explained it back as a B.S. fee that they concocted to bilk me out of an extra $300, and walked out the door.

    Wish I could do the same with my utilities... [​IMG]

    Moe.
     
  4. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    Yes, gas here in B.C. is a joke as well. I have 2 gas appliances, both heaters, which only go into service from November to March, yet I pay a customer charge every month ($18) for the priviledge of gas service. This was another tack on scheme. We got a notice saying that gas prices had fallen, so to make up for it, we'll ding you more for being a customer.

    As for reducing consumption, that would be great, but when the temperature is at -20 to -40 outside, and all you have is electric heat, there are limits to how much you can conserve, especially when installing a wood stove will void your house insurance, or get that cost jacked way up.
     
  5. Chris Lockwood

    Chris Lockwood Producer

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    > Those who don't pay a 10% penalty, plus 19.8% annual interest. The courts have deemed this illegal

    What was illegal? The 10% part? Isn't that the same as a late fee? Don't most utilities charge late fees? (I wouldn't know, since I pay on time.)

    I'm really curious why penalizing late payers was deemed illegal.

    As for the rate hike, isn't there some state agency that has to approve it?


    > I'll pay $20 for the gas, a $10 customer charge, and a $15 "delivery" charge

    Some utilities itemize charges to too much detail, so it makes it look like they are overcharging. For instance my power bill has an energy charge which is basically their cost of producing the electricity, but that doesn't include their other costs.

    Maybe you could save $15 by picking up the gas yourself. I would rather have it delivered.

    It would be like a restaurant saying $2 for food cost, $1 for labor, etc, rather than just saying the item you ordered is $5.
     
  6. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    Yes, the 10% penalty is illegal.

    My issue with all these charges is that they didn't exist before, and that wasn't just because they are disclosing the seperate costs.

    It has nothing to do with the cost of the utility, we are not paying cost of aquisition, we are paying the consumer price. What they have addd are service and delivery charges that are new, soley to increase the revenue.

    The beef with the new rates are that the utility is basically instituting a 1.5% increase for no good reason, other than they are going to lose revenue that they were collecting illegally in the first place.
     
  7. MikeH1

    MikeH1 Screenwriter

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    Here Epcor (power) recently knocked off about a 20% "mismanagment fee" off our bills. Yes, since they didn't know how to manage their money every client was billed about 20% or so for a year. I remember when they stopped doing it last summer because my power bill took a bit of a nosedive and a letter came out with the bills celebrating the great news and the new lower rates. The funny thing is they refrain (well - try to keep it as low key as possible) from letting you know when their implementing this fee but then celebrate the fact when they lift it like its their generosity that did it (or lower market values).

    It shouldn't have been there in the first place.

    Crooks.
     
  8. Thomas Newton

    Thomas Newton Screenwriter

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    My long distance company signed me up for a plan that has a flat monthly fee, plus a flat rate per minute. So the bill should be just that, right?

    Wrong. Not only do they tack on the usual taxes and fees that the government imposes on customers, but there is an extra, special fee to pay for their taxes and cost of complying with the law.

    It's complete garbage. If they said that they didn't want to keep offering service for the advertised monthly rate; that they wanted to raise the rate by $X, it would be much more honest. But I guess they figure that some of their customers are too dumb to catch on, and that others will put up with it to avoid the hassle of a switch.
     
  9. Thomas Newton

    Thomas Newton Screenwriter

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    I don't know how much good this idea will do in THOSE temperatures, but maybe you could look into installing some sort of solar heat collector and/or power generator on the roof.
     
  10. Chris Lockwood

    Chris Lockwood Producer

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    > The beef with the new rates are that the utility is basically instituting a 1.5% increase for no good reason, other than they are going to lose revenue that they were collecting illegally in the first place.

    It sounds like your beef should be with the state, who won't let them charge a late fee to late payers, forcing them to raise everyone's rate to make up for it. Interesting how many people blame the company in a situation like this.


    > I don't know how much good this idea will do in THOSE temperatures, but maybe you could look into installing some sort of solar heat collector

    For what? To get the temp up to -10? How much sunlight could there be?
     
  11. Joseph S

    Joseph S Cinematographer

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    I didn't read that they couldn't charge a late fee, only that they couldn't charge an outrageous 10% penalty plus 19.8% annual interest. Loan sharks shouldn't be endorsed by anyone.
     
  12. Lance Nichols

    Lance Nichols Supporting Actor

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    Here in Ontario we have a "debt recovery fee" that the Hydro utility has tacked onto the bills. Why? Because when they were a part of the government (rather then a wholly owned crown corporation they are now) they racked up huge debts trying to get some nukes back on line, and by subsidizing the costs of electricity.

    Enter the Haris government, whose long term aim was to sell off the Hydro company. Rather then carry the debt on their books, as all previous governments had done, they off loaded it to the Hydro company then mandated the fee to help pay off the debt so the company would look attractive to outside buyers. Never mind the fact that they then went and hired more "experts" that really blew the roof on the nuke costs, or the pubilc outcry over the attempt to sell off the assets...

    We also have a "delivery" fee that charges for the losses inherent in the distribution grid. Thats right, they charge you a percentage fee on your hydro usage based on the fact that there is electrical resistance in the wiring system!

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    No, my beef is with the company. They already charge interest on overdue accounts. A 10% penalty on top of that is usery, and illegal. Every time there is a rate reduction on the supply side, they jack up the user fees to make up the difference and then some.

    In winter, we get less than 2 hours of sunlight, some of my neignbors are lucky to get 15 minutes, so solar collectors wouldn't really do much, unfortunately. Most people around here use wood heat, but that causes problems with the insurance companies, who won't supply insurance (which is mandatory if you have a mortgage) in many cases.
     
  14. nolesrule

    nolesrule Producer

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    Charging interest and a late fee doesn't seem out of the norm. Credi cards do this regularly. Is the problem that the late fee was a percentage instead of flat fee?
     
  15. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    All my credit cards charge interest, and interest only. There is no late fee.
     
  16. nolesrule

    nolesrule Producer

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    Really? Must be a law in your area, because every credit card I've ever seen a schedule of fees for (and not just the ones I have)charges a late payment fee if the minimum payment is not made by the payment due date.
     

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