Please note, the information released in this blog post has been authorized by the family involved.
On February 13th, 2013, some urgent pleas for help appeared in the twitter time line, from a family here in Edmonton. This family has been having a major dispute with Epcor, and I think after reading a few facts, you will understand why. I would also like to mention that I know this family. They are extremely kind and honest people. They are also not very mechanically inclined and have procured a host of various contractors they have dealt with for years.
The owner of the property is an 86 year old woman who survived Stalin's World War II Forced Labor Camps. She and her husband eventually settled here in Edmonton and built a large duplex style house many years ago. One side to live in, the other side for family.As life happens, her husband passed away several years ago, and the "other side" was turned into a rental unit. Very well constructed, mirror images of each side, using a boiler and radiator system for heating.
I believe that sometime in January or February of 2012, the family received a phone call from Epcor, advising them they had detected unusually high water usage from the rental unit, which at the time was vacant. The property was immediately inspected, and there was no visible signs of water leaking or running, however a licensed plumber was also called in to perform a full investigation of the boiler system, radiators, taps and toilets. After a complete inspection and investigation, the plumber determined there were no faults, no leaks, and that everything was fine. The family contacted Epcor and said the property was inspected and no issues were found.
Shortly after that, a bill arrived, followed by another call from Epcor saying the water usage was still off the charts. Another investigation was done, the plumber was called back in again, everything was checked and again, nothing found. Truth be told, the plumber was actually there several times to monitor and check. The usual things like putting food coloring into toilet tanks to see if the flapper valve was leaking was done, yet no problems were detected.
I believe that over 2 consecutive billing periods, Epcor billed an amount that would be equal to filling up TWO city sized swimming pools. (Note... this statement was provided by Epcor when asked about consumption comparisons)
How could this be? Inspection after inspection found no problems, the rental unit was vacant, it was winter and certainly no one would be stealing water from a garden hose. Not THAT amount of water. And really, if there was a leak in a wall, well... I'm sure the house would have floated away on its own.
Shortly after this, and continuing on to the present day, Epcor has been hounding the family for the money, refusing to look at the plumbers statement of facts, and threatening continuously to disconnect the services. The family has been trying to get Epcor to deal with this, even to the point of having the water meter removed (at their expense) to be tested. The testing was supposed to be done with the family present, but that did not happen.
The family has refused to pay the "excess" charges because under the circumstances, it would seem there must be some other error involved. Epcor keeps demanding payment, never wants to discuss the issue for the most part, keeps tacking on interest and penalties,and keeps threatening to terminate services. The family has asked on numerous occasions what the exact amount is, and has been told amounts that vary between $750 and $1,150 dollars. I'm not quite sure how "what you owe" can vary like that. And they are also aware that if they DO "agree" to make payments on this over charge, then it's an admission of fault. And they simply do not feel they are at fault.
Well, without warning, Epcor did put restrictive services on the power. They do this by removing the current power meter and replacing it with one that only supplies around 15 amps of 110 volt service. Just enough for some simple basics, and using a stove is not possible at all because it requires 220 volts. The thing is, they did this while the family was not at home, and left no indications that they had done this.
When the family arrived home, a few items were turned on and "poof", the power died. And the panic started. Naturally Epcor was contacted and the explanation of how to "reset" this meter was not accurate. Attempts were made many times, and the power would not come back on.
Anyway, the twitter uproar over this was intense. So intense that the next day, Epcor did come out and put the normal meter back in, but the situation is still not resolved. I think the thing that bothers ME the most, was the nerve of Epcor to make a post on the situation. Personally I think it exceeded the bounds of privacy, and certainly made them look like they were not the ones at fault. And I'm not really impressed with the misrepresentation of disconnection without notice. They have been threatening this every few months and nothing was done. How was the family supposed to know this time would be any different? And why would Epcor refer to this as a "delinquent" account, implying that the family was not paying any of their bill.
Some explanations are in order to the family. How is it possible for that amount of consumption to be "recorded" when there were clearly never any leaks found. Why the constant refusals to discuss the matter other than "pay it and shut up". And why in winter? Can you imagine the trauma this 86 year old woman went through? One who is mobility and hearing challenged. One that could not even have any hot food until well beyond 10 pm, when the "limiter meter" was finally able to be reset. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you don't follow the incorrect instructions given by Epcor.
I think it's time for Epcor to stop being the bully, and sit down and actually make an honest attempt to solve this.