Friday, August 18, 2023 (Wetaskiwin, Alberta) — Peace Hills Utilities Inc. was made aware of concerns with July’s utility bills earlier this week. The investigation into the issue resulted in these findings.
Some Peace Hills Utilities Inc. customers saw an increase or decrease in water consumption on their utility bills for the month of July. Not every customer was impacted.
Despite Aquatera performing meter reads every month, bills sent out for May and June were based on water usage estimates instead of the actual meter reads. For some, these estimates were under their actual rate of consumption, meaning the difference was included on their July bill. This is what caused the higher-than-average bills to be issued for some residents.
For others, the estimates were higher than their actual rate of consumption, meaning they received a credit on their July bill.
There was an issue importing water meter data for the months of May and June, leading to estimates being used instead of actuals. To calculate the estimate, the software averages every month on an annual basis. Over the year, there can be several factors resulting in lower or higher estimates, including vacations, changes to the number of people living in the home, or a dead battery on the meter.
When estimates are used, an actual read is supposed to take place the following month. The actual reading for the following month will account for any differences from the previous estimate. For example, someone billed $50 in one month based on estimated consumption when their actual consumption was $100 would see an additional $50 added to their next bill in which their meter was read to account for the lower estimated consumption. Alternatively, a household billed $100 in one month based on estimated consumption when their actual consumption was $50 would see a $50 decrease of their next bill in which their meter was read to account for the higher estimated consumption.
Consumption reflected in July’s bill is accurate. The July 1 rate increase was retroactively applied to May and June underages reflected in July’s bills.
Given that rates increased by 15 per cent in July, the additional 15 per cent was applied to any overages that were included on the July bill from May and June. Those charged the 15 per cent rate increase on May and June consumption will have the option to be credited on their next bill or receive a refund for that amount prior to August 28. Those who received credits on their July bill will see an additional expense on their August bills to accurately reflect the additional rate changes to July consumption.
What does this mean?
What are the next steps?
My water bill for July was unexpectedly high.
There may have been an underage on your May and June utility bill based on estimates, meaning you were undercharged for those months. The water consumption not accounted for on those bills was added to your July bill.
You may be eligible for a refund or a credit because the water consumption not accounted for from May and June was charged at the increased rate that took effect on July 1.
My water bill for July was unexpectedly low.
There may have been an overage on your May and June utility bill based on estimates, meaning you were overcharged for those months. You may have received a credit on your July bill.
Your August bill may be higher to account for the water consumption that was not charged at the new July 1 rate.
Customers who experienced an increase in their July bill due to the inclusion of the May and June overages will not incur penalties or have their water shut off if they are unable to pay their July or August bill in full due to the error.
Refunds will be automatically applied to August bills. If requested, refunds are available prior to the next billing cycle if the request is made between August 22 and August 28, 2023 to ensure future billing cycles are not impacted.
To request a refund, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 780.361.4453. Refunds will be issued by cheque and available for pickup within one to three business days.
Additional internal controls are being put in place around the utility data import to ensure actual readings are being used for utility bills each month. Utility bills showing an estimated read code will be flagged and will be investigated prior to bills being sent out.
Under the heading Read Code on your utility bill, there will be an A or an E to identify if your consumption calculation is based on an estimate or an actual. If it is an estimate, you will see the E, and if it is the actual reading, you will see the A.
For further questions about your utilities bill, please contact email email@example.com or phone 780.361.4453.