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Veridian says it's got bills to pay too

Belleville Intellegencer - November 6, 2002
By Derek Baldwin

Calls for Veridian Corp. to show mercy towards its customers who are struggling to meet electrical bills that, in some cases are doubling, are being listened to, insist the company.

Hastings County social service department head Eric Fry has called on Veridian for a meeting to work out a payment plan that will counter an onslaught of complaints from people on fixed incomes.

Fry said utility companies in the past have shown compassion and have not moved immediately to cut off electricity to customers who can't pay their bills in full.

He recently told reporters, however, that Veridian Corp. appears to be clamping down on customers and is not showing the "leniency" that former Belleville Utilities Commission and Ontario Hydro practised at one time.

From Ajax, Tuesday, Veridian spokesman George Armstrong said his company welcomes the meeting `yet to be scheduled' to do anything it can to help customers.

But, Armstrong said there is only so much Veridian can do to buffer electrical bills that have doubled, and even tripled in some cases, due to electrical rates that went through the roof in late summer and September.

We can't have a widespread program to offer them (customers in arrears) because, as you are aware, we have an obligation to our bills to the Independent Marketing Operator. We have to pay our bills within two days after our bill is rendered, said Armstrong.

That said, Armstrong noted that the company is working with each customer to try and work out a compromise if possible to prevent Veridian from cutting off power to a customer's home.

We are aware there are people struggling to pay their hydro bills. We always deal with customers on a case-by-case basis. We can, sometimes, negotiate payment terms, said Armstrong.

Veridian is not responsible for the rate hikes caused by the deregulation of the electricity market by the Ontario government last May, he said.

All attempts, he said, are made by Veridian staff to notify a customer that they are in arrears and need to make a payment, or contact Veridian offices to discuss the issue.

Armstrong said a first "disconnect notice" is mailed, followed by a second notice while staff try to contact the customer for information.

The company does not immediately move to cut off power, he said.

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