**This featured case is one example of the concerns people have brought to us. Names have been changed to protect the identity of the people involved.
Hilda, a senior, was on a pre-authorized payment plan with SaskEnergy. Each month, her bill came in the mail and indicated that the previous month’s bill had been paid.
Ten years later, she was unexpectedly removed from the pre-authorized payment plan and a letter arrived from SaskEnergy, stating she owed almost $13,000 for past bills. She called SaskEnergy and learned that this amount was a total of her bills for the past 10 years that had not been paid out of her bank account. The pre-authorized payments had been coming out of another customer’s account for all these years.
Hilda admitted that she never checked her bills against her bank account withdrawals; she just trusted that SaskEnergy was getting paid when the bills were showing they were paid. Although Hilda understood she probably owed the bill, she did not think it was fair for SaskEnergy to now demand payment after 10 years. As a senior on a fixed income, she could not afford to pay that amount as well as her regular bill. She contacted our Office.
We looked into several questions related to her situation and found:
- SaskEnergy had made the billing mistake.
- SaskEnergy’s calculations of the amount were correct.
- SaskEnergy’s letter did not provide an explanation of what happened.
- SaskEnergy has the authority to go back 10 years and collect this debt.
- No one noticed the error for 10 years: not Hilda, not the other customer and not SaskEnergy.
- The error was found when the other customer passed away and the estate was being settled.
- SaskEnergy reimbursed that customer’s estate for the amount paid in error.
Following our involvement, SaskEnergy gave Hilda two options. She could, by a certain date, pay a lump sum that was less than the full amount owed, or she could pay a small amount each month over a long period of time to repay the total bill. Hilda was able to borrow money and pay the lump sum. She was relieved to have this matter settled.