An undetermined number of Whistler and Squamish residents got a nasty surprise in the mail recently from B.C. Hydro.
Unable to read the meters in October due to the flooding and during the winter as late as April due to staffing problems, B.C. Hydro estimated the power usage for residents.
Unfortunately B.C. Hydro used their August numbers to make those estimates, so that by the time they got around to finally reading meters some customers had been under-billed for a period of six months.
As a result many customers were shocked to receive bills for the full amount.
Paul Fournier was one of the customers who was surprised by a higher than expected bill. Last month he received a B.C. Hydro bill for $800 it would have been $1,100 but he had overpaid on a previous bill.
"Its six months later and Im thinking Ive been so efficient with my hydro, Ive saved all kinds of money having fires, and blah, blah blah. Then all of a sudden I get a bill, and Im thinking its been pretty nice the last couple of months, its going to be pretty easy, then I open it up and its $1,100. Im thinking, how did it go from $300 to $1,100?" said Fournier.
There was no explanation on the bill, so Fournier called B.C. Hydro to complain. He had to work his way up the ranks to a supervisor, spending an hour on the phone, before he was given an explanation.
Compounding his problem, B.C. Hydro wouldnt allow Fournier to make the payment by credit card without charging him an extra $35 on the money he owned. He went to the bank to pay cash.
While he could afford B.C. Hydros mistake, he says that someone who was working for him wasnt so lucky and actually had his power cut off. That situation was made worse by the fact that the person had roommates who have already left Whistler believing that they were fully paid up.
The Pique has heard of at least three other stories in the past week, although none of the sources was willing to go on record. In those cases, the extent of the under-billing ranged from around $250 to $500.
B.C. Hydro has acknowledged the problem and says it wont happen again.
"I can tell you weve had some challenges with meter reading in that area from about October 03 to April 04," said Elisha Moreno, the media relations manager for B.C. Hydro.
"In October of 2003 during the scheduled meter reading there was flooding and the Sea to Sky Highway was closed. When it reopened it was only periodically through the day, and not in time to allow our meter reads to get there so that was the challenge for the fall.