It took a lot of fighting and research for Newmarket resident Aaron Thomas to deal with a nearly $4,500 gas bill this month.
Faced with a bill more than 30 times his average, he set out to get it reduced. Although he said he was told it was to make up for meters not getting read during the pandemic, he still felt it was far too high.
After multiple phone calls and emails with Enbridge and the Ontario Energy Board, Thomas said he was able to get the bill cut down to $233. He said Enbridge identified his previous bill as “human error.”
“That was a big sense of relief,” he said. “I don’t think the relief would have been there unless (I put in) the hours of hard work to find a solution.”
Thomas is not the only one facing higher bills from Enbridge. Reached for comment earlier this month, the company said it could not comment on a specific case but that the market has faced historically high natural gas prices due to the war in Ukraine and high demand. It also said there are adjustments quarterly based on market changes, which can result in refunds or additional charges.
Enbridge said it could not comment on specific accounts and customer bills "are a function of both rates and customer usage."
But Thomas said he was told it had to do with estimates on gas usage during the pandemic, with the bill being a catch-up after his meter was read in person recently. He said speaking on the phone with customer service for hours got him nowhere, and he was not informed about dispute options.
The Ontario Energy Board has a complaint process on its website. Thomas said he went through to contact the OEB but also directly emailed higher-ups at Enbridge, as well. Ultimately, he said he got a new response from Enbridge, and his bill was slashed.
“You got to be your biggest advocate,” he said, adding that he hopes “the average person, homeowner would do their due diligence.”
The Ontario Energy Board approved rate increases for Enbridge natural gas effective Oct. 1, but those increases on an annual basis amounted to a 0.4 to 10.4 per cent difference, depending on where you live.
“Natural gas prices remain high because of sustained global demand for North American liquefied natural gas and uncertainty in the global energy landscape,” the OEB said.
Phelpston resident Alessandro Manzone said he has also faced a similar experience. After averaging $200 a month on gas bills in the past year, he suddenly faced an approximately $900 bill this month, which he was told was based on a catch-up on an actual meter reading.
“Now, they expect us to pay that differential for them not doing their job properly,” he said. “The process and how they go about doing it, it’s not fair to their customers.”
Others in the Stonehaven neighbourhood have recounted sudden bill spikes as well, Thomas said. He added it is easy to just go along with whatever a charge is and that he has been guilty of that.
But with enough people fighting back, there could be change, he said.
“Hopefully, with enough eyeballs, enough stories that are coming,” he said, “Enbridge will be proactive enough to make sure they’re not going to give someone a heart attack with a bill."