Individual vs. Collective Sub-Metering-Based Electricity Billing: A Cautionary (Money-Saving) Tale for Today's Customers

[Draft 1.0] A recent consumer complaint involving a University student and Wyse Meter Solutions serves as a cautionary tale and important reminder that energy consumers in Ontario should always double, and in some cases, triple check their monthly electricity bill. If (e.g.) sharing an apartment unit with roommates, making sure all roommates understand the energy billing structure and method of payment, and overall maintaining an open line of communication with one another at all times can prevent overpayment on energy bills. While relevant regulations do not speak directly to this point, people like College and University students sharing an apartment should never be receiving separate electricity bills for the same meter.  That was precisely basis underlying a recent consumer complaint against Wyse Meter Solutions.  

The Ontario Energy Board confirmed that this would be outside of "normal" practice. For its part, Wyse affirmed that "under no circumstances are any individual residents billed for the same consumption as another resident".  Wyse also stated that the company is in full compliance with all of the requirements under the OEB's Unit Sub-Metering Code, and that its billing practices also comply with all federal and provincial regulations. 

The alleged billing practice by Wyse Meter Solutions is said to have commenced last September, when Wyse started signing up residents for individual billing after taking control of the utilities for a building with approximately 1,100 students-residents. Instead of dividing the total cost of utilities by the number of roommates in each apartment, as Wyse Meter Solutions says it bills its customers, billing would instead be sent to all roommates living in the same apartment, leading to a duplication in electricity costs for that same apartment unit. In this particular case, an audit of the bills for four roommates showed that each person in the apartment was charged $18.59 based on the reading of a single energy meter, leading to a charge that exceeded 3.7 times what the cost should have been. Properly billed, the amount should have been $20.21 for all four roommates, i.e. $5.05 per student.

In Ontario, laws and regulations are such that sub-metering companies like Wise allow landlords to "suite level units" to effectively shift and divide utility costs onto individual units within an apartment complex rather than having to pay a single large energy bill for the entire apartment complex.  The Ontario Energy Board, however, stressed that normal industry practice is to have a single energy account per electricity meter.  While the Ontario Energy Board does not have any specific regulations that would allow sub-metering companies, like Wyse, to send multiple accounts for one single meter, there are no regulations that expressly prohibit this practice. 

The Ontario Energy Board is currently in the process of examining complaints where submetering companies have created multiple bills for a single meter, and that any action that needs to be taken will be taken after a careful review of these complaints. In the interim, Wyse (per co-CEO Peter Mills) has assumed full responsibility for these oversights, and has issued a public apology. Mills also stated that any duplicate charges (including administration fees, security deposits, and other amounts) would be credited, and that anyone on "individual billing" could be "switched back" to group billing, with just one administration fee per account. Other energy companies that have been questioned on the same issue expressly stated that they do not create multiple accounts for single meters. Companies like Hydro One and Enbridge did not comment on whether current laws and regulations allowed for multiple billing based on a single meter.