Ontario Energy Board (OEB) issues new customer service rules to strengthen consumer protection

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) has issued new customer service rules to electricity and natural gas utilities and unit sub-meter providers (USMPs) to enhance protection of consumers throughout the province.

“One of the top priorities at the OEB is protecting consumers,” said Brian Hewson, Vice President of Consumer Protection & Industry Performance.

“These new rules will help ensure that they continue to serve the interests of customers, and that they maintain an appropriate balance between consumer protection and the ongoing operational needs of energy utilities.”

The new rules mark the end of an extensive consultation and were informed by the feedback of more than 2,500 consumers. The OEB has had rules in place for electricity utilities for a number of years. While the OEB does not prescribe customer service rules for natural gas utilities, they are required to have customer service policies covering the same major areas as electricity utilities.

As a result of the review, the OEB is implementing rules for natural gas utilities, aligned with the rules that apply to electricity utilities. All rule changes below will also apply to natural gas utilities. The OEB believes this approach will ensure that both electricity and natural gas customers are treated in a fair and consistent manner. Consumers and consumer groups made it clear that they expect the same level of service from their electricity and natural gas utilities. A number of the rule changes will also apply to USMPs.

Please see the changes to the customer service rules below. If you have any questions regarding the changes, please contact our Customer Service team at 705-431-4321, cs@innpower.ca or in office at 7251 Yonge Street, Innisfil, ON.

Current Electricity Rules

New Rules (Gas and Electricity)

Late Payment Charges
(Utilities have until July 1, 2019, to comply with these changes)

Note: This does not apply to USMPs

Late payment charges carry a monthly interest rate of 1.5% per month (19.56% per year.)

No change to late payment charges or the interest rate will be made, though to provide clarity and consistency for customers, the daily interest rate should be calculated based on the 1.5% monthly interest rate, not the 19.56% annual compounded rate. Distributors must also clearly describe in their conditions of service their late payment policy, including the time from when late payment charges start to apply.

Collection of Account Charge
(Utilities have until July 1, 2019, to comply with these changes)

Note: This does not apply to USMPs, and gas distributors do not charge for collection activities

These charges are intended to cover the field costs, or part of the costs, of additional collection activities that are beyond the routine of a distributor (e.g. – sending a truck to a customer’s home).

Collection of accounts are part of normal business activities and customers must not be charged for this activity.

Install/Remove Load Control Device Charge
(Utilities have until July 1, 2019, to comply with these changes)

Note: This does not apply to USMPs, and gas distributors do not use load control devices

A load control device limits or interrupts electricity service. Distributors install these devices as an alternative to disconnection, and charges for installing/removing these devices are set out in their tariffs.

Distributors will not be allowed to apply charges for the installation/removal of a load control device for either non-payment or at the customer’s request.

Disconnection/Reconnection Charges
(Utilities have until July 1, 2019, to comply with these changes)

Note: This does not apply to USMPs

Customers who have their service reconnected after being disconnected for not paying their bills can incur a “Disconnect/Reconnect” charge that ranges from $65 to $415, though distributors can also apply for a unique charge.

This charge must be waived for eligible low-income customers. Other residential customers unable to pay the charge must be offered reasonable payment arrangements to pay the charge following the reconnection. For clarity, the name of the charge will be changed to “Reconnection.”

Security Deposit
(Utilities have until March 1, 2020, to comply with these changes)

Note: This applies to USMPs

Security deposits must be returned to a residential customer after one year of good payment history. For small businesses, security deposits must be returned after five years of good payment history.

Security deposits are not required from new residential customers if they can provide a letter showing one year of good payment history with another electricity or gas utility in Canada, or a satisfactory credit check at the customer’s expense. Security deposits must also be waived for eligible low-income customers upon request.

For residential customers, security deposits must still be returned after one year of good payment history. Security deposits must be returned to small businesses after three years of good payment history.

In addition to the exemption already in place for residential customers with a good payment history, security deposits must also be waived for new residential customers enrolling in the utility’s equal payment and/or a pre-authorized payment plan as determined by the utility. For clarity, a new customer is one who has not been served by the utility in the previous 24 months.

Minimum Payment Period
(Utilities have until March 1, 2020, to comply with these changes)

Note: This applies to USMPs

The minimum payment period before a late payment charge can be applied is at least 16 calendar days from the date the bill is issued to the customer.

The minimum payment period before a late payment penalty can be applied must be at least 20 calendar days from the date the bill is issued to the customer.

Equal Payment Plan
(Utilities have until March 1, 2020, to comply with these changes)

Note: This does not apply to USMPs

Distributors must offer residential customers who are not enrolled with retailers the option to join either a prescribed equal monthly payment plan or an equal billing plan. Under such plans, a distributor adds up a customer’s bills for the past 12 months and divides them by 12 to get the average, which is then automatically withdrawn from the customer’s bank account monthly or billed to the customer each month, depending on the plan.

Distributors are not required to provide equal billing/equal payment plans to small business customers.

Distributors must offer non-seasonal residential customers an equal payment plan along with the option of automatic withdrawals from a financial institution. Distributors may cancel a customer’s equal payment plan after two missed payments within an equal payment year.

Distributors must offer equal payment plans to small business customers except for those who (1) are enrolled with energy retailers; (2) have less than 12 months of billing history; (3) are in arrears or their participation in the plan was cancelled for non-payment in the past 12 months; or (4) have unpredictable consumption usage and for whom amounts cannot be estimated with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

Allocation of Payment
(Utilities have until March 1, 2020, to comply with these changes)

Note: This applies to USMPs

If a bill includes charges other than electricity charges – for instance, for water service – payments from the customer must go first to pay the electricity portion of the bill.

If a bill includes charges other than electricity/gas charges, the utility is allowed (but not required) to allocate payments based on a residential customer’s written request.

Arrears Payment Agreements (APAs)
(Utilities have until March 1, 2020, to comply with these changes)

Residential customers who are unable to pay their outstanding charges can enter into an APA. Electricity distributors are prohibited from applying late payment charges on the amount that is covered by the APA for eligible low-income customers.

Utilities are not required to offer any payment plans to small business customers who are unable to pay their bills.

Electricity and natural gas distributors must not apply late payment charges on the amount covered by the APA for all residential customers. Note: This change does not apply to USMPs.


Small business customers must be offered payment arrangements if they are unable to pay their bills. Terms of those arrangements are not to be set by the OEB. Note: This change applies to USMPs.

Disconnection Notice Period and Timing
(Utilities have until March 1, 2020, to comply with these changes)

Note: This applies to USMPs

Customers must receive 10 calendar days’ notice before being disconnected for non-payment. The notice period starts from the date on which the customer receives the disconnection notice.


Disconnection notices sent out by mail are deemed to have been received by the customer on the third business day after the date the utility printed the notice.

Utilities must disconnect a customer within 11 calendar days following the 10-day minimum notice period. After that, utilities must restart the disconnection process.

Utilities must give customers an “account overdue notice” seven calendar days before a disconnection notice is issued, and then give customers 14 calendar days’ notice before disconnecting them for non-payment.

Disconnection notices sent out by mail are deemed to have been received by the customer on the fifth calendar day after the date the utility printed the notice.

Utilities will be permitted to disconnect a customer within 14 calendar days following the 14-day minimum notice period. After that, utilities must restart the disconnection process.

Utilities must not disconnect customers on a day when they are closed to the public to make payment and/or reconnection arrangements, or on the day before that day.

Winter Disconnection Ban
(Utilities have until March 1, 2020, to comply with these changes)

Note: This does not apply to USMPs

Distributors are prohibited from disconnecting customers for non-payment from November 15 – April 30.

Consumers disconnected prior to the ban period must be reconnected by November 15. Distributors must also remove load control devices that were installed as an alternative to disconnection, and they cannot install new load control devices during the disconnection ban period.

The winter disconnection ban will remain in effect for electricity utilities and will also be extended to natural gas utilities.

Distributors will have until December 1 to reconnect formerly disconnected customers and remove load control devices. In some cases, a home visit is required and a utility may need more time to reconnect a customer.


Copyright © 2020 | Terms & Conditions