Hydro One – Investigation by Ontario’s Ombudsman

March 14, 2016 – Fiona Crean begins role as Hydro One ombudsman (Toronto Sun)
Fiona Crean, a former City of Toronto Ombudsman, is the new Ombudsman for Hydro One, reporting directly to the Hydro One Board of Directors.

December 4, 2015 – Hydro One Billing Complaints Probe Ends, Because Company Is Being Privatized (Canadian Press)

July 28, 2015 – Ontario’s Ombudsman releases his 2014 2015 Annual Report to the Ontario Legislature, including a wrap up of the Hydro One investigation (starting on page 47).  The report also speaks to the pending sale of Hydro One, and reiterates  the warnings jointly issued issued May 21, 2015  by the Ombudsman, Auditor General, Information and Privacy Commissioner, Financial Accountability Officer, Integrity Commissioner,
Environmental Commissioner and others: “The Officers are concerned that while the government intends to eventually hold 40% of Hydro One over the long term, their ability to assess its value and quality of service, among other matters, would be eliminated… The government would take the revenue from its Hydro One stake and reflect it in its consolidated revenues, and yet Ontarians would receive no operational information on Hydro One from Ontario’s independent Legislative Officers.”
The Hydro One privitization (Bill 91) was passed and given royal assent on June 4, 2015. Under the legislation, the Ombudsman can no longer accept any new complaints about Hydro One, but has six months from June 4, 2015 to complete any ongoing investigations. The Ombudsman has notified Hydro One and its subsidiaries of 578 complaints that were ongoing as of that date.

Though Hydro One is obliged under the new legislation to appoint an internal ombudsman to handle public complaints, there is not yet any indication as to when this new position would be filled.

 

May 25, 2015 – The largest investigation in the Ontario Ombudsman’s history (“In the Dark”) revealed a long list of problems related to Hydro One’s unsuccessful installation of a new customer system in May 2013. Well over 100,000 customers have been affected.

Ontario’s 250,000 waterfront property owners are a significant part of Hydro One’s 1.3 million customers, and have not been immune to the utilities’ struggles with incorrect billing amounts and poor customer response.

With his report release today, Ombudsman Andre Marin comments, “Hydro One lost sight of its public interest purpose and failed to adequately consider the impact on its customers,” and “Its overconfidence in its technical superiority fostered complacency. It forgot to consider the consequences to its customers.” According to Mr. Marin, Hydro One’s “fatal fault” is a “technocratic and inward-facing organizational culture that is completely out of step with public sector values.”

Further, Hydro One deceived regulators, the ombudsman’s office and others on the extent of its billing and customer service disaster. “My report clearly documents Hydro One’s failure to communicate openly, honestly and proactively with its customers, its regulator, ministry (of energy) officials and my office.”

The Ombudsman has made 65 recommendations to the Hydro One, all of which it has accepted. These include: redesigned, clearer bills and a system for issuing refunds, explanations and apologies when warranted; more transparent and reliable statistics; better staff training and call quality monitoring;  and better communication between management and the board of directors about systemic customer service issues.

The Ombudsman’s Hydro One findings at a  glance: In the Dark – Facts and Figures (PDF, 2 pages)

Hydro One Ombudsman report FULL REPORT (PDF, 119 pages)

The investigation into the utility’s billing failures was the largest in the Ombudsman’s office history featuring more than 10,700 complaints.

The Ombudsman is an independent officer of the Legislature who investigates complaints from the public about Ontario government services.  Find out more here.

 

Terry ReesHydro One – Investigation by Ontario’s Ombudsman