Newfoundland Power says it has an obligation to all customers to try to collect on outstanding bills, and those efforts include learning who is supplied with power in serviced apartments.
“When someone applies for electricity service, we ask them to identify the co-occupants. In the case of rental properties, where we have reason to believe the information provided is not complete, tenants are advised that we will be contacting the landlord to confirm who will be residing at the premises, or we may ask tenants to have their landlords contact us directly,” read a response to questions from The Telegram this week.
“Reasonable efforts are made to identify residents of a residential property to ensure compliance with Newfoundland Power’s rules and regulations as approved by the Public Utilities Board.”
The rules and regulations approved by the PUB include a clause stating the company may refuse service where “the applicant or the owner or an occupant of the serviced premises has a bill for any service which is not paid in full 30 days or more after issuance.”
NDP presses on privacy and power bills
The word “occupant” covers people in the home besides the account holder. And the regulation does not specify the outstanding bills for service are specific to the current account, meaning they might be debts owed by someone related to a previous residence.
“We understand that there are times when some of our customers may find themselves in difficult situations. That’s why we work very closely over a long period of time with our customers to resolve any outstanding matter they may have in an attempt to find a solution,” stated Newfoundland Power spokeswoman Michele Coughlan.
At the same time, she explained, the company needs to be mindful of unpaid bills.
“The cost of unpaid electricity bills has an impact on all customers’ electricity rates,” Coughlan stated. “In the interest of all our customers, we have an obligation to make every reasonable effort to resolve and collect outstanding bills.”
Questions were put to the utility following an exchange in the House of Assembly Tuesday about privacy and power bills, after CBC reported cases where Newfoundland Power took action on outstanding accounts, including at least one case where the occupants of an apartment were apparently confirmed through the landlord.
The NDP has challenged this kind of information sharing and asked that it be reviewed and ultimately disallowed. The Liberals have said they will look into the issue.