South Dundas public utility fined for errant disconnection notices

In this July 2014, file photo, the front entrance to the Rideau St. Lawrence Distribution Inc. offices at the South Dundas Justice Building in Morrisburg, Ont. The utility company has been fined $10,000 for its disconnection practices and has agreed to change them. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

TORONTO – Ontario’s electricity regulator has fined Rideau St. Lawrence Distribution $10,000 for serving 503 customers with non-compliant hydro disconnection notices.

The penalty was part of a so-called Assurance of Voluntary Compliance agreement between the utility and the Ontario Energy Board, the OEB announced Thursday.

The regulator did a deep dive into the utility’s disconnection practices following a flurry of notices issued in April and May 2019.

In its investigation, the OEB found that Rideau St. Lawrence had served 394 disconnection notices to customers and actually cut the power to 12 of them, then charged reconnection fees. Those fees were reversed as soon as the OEB started its investigation, the regulator said.

The OEB found that nearly three-quarters of the notices didn’t clearly spell out how much the customer had to pay to avoid having their power cut. “In these disconnection notices, the overdue amount for payment incorrectly included amounts for water and sewer arrears,” the OEB said, which meant customers were left in the dark on exactly how much they needed to pay for hydro in order avoid having their electricity shut off.

Rideau St. Lawrence also issued 109 notices in April 2019 while a winter disconnection ban was in effect.

Rideau St. Lawrence Distribution Inc. serves 6,000 customers in South Dundas, Edwardsburgh-Cardinal, Prescott and Westport.

The OEB says Rideau St. Lawrence has assured it that it “has taken all reasonable steps to ensure its compliance with its customer disconnection-related obligations” in the future. That includes revising its notices and changing its practices.